Nick Mangwana View from the Diaspora
Every election promise is predicated upon the promiser winning the election. The fulfilment of that promise is contingent upon the electorate one is trying to lure fulfilling their part of the transaction by voting for the candidate. Should we look at this as a bribe? You promise something and ask people to vote for you.
Most promises made by political parties have a lot to do with how they are going to apply public resources or apply public policies to ensure there is money in the pockets of the electorate.
Is a promise to have a programme or project for a certain group or constituency vote buying? Say a political party promises that it will make certain tax concessions to young people that have left university that they pay much less tax for the first three years of starting their jobs, is that vote buying?
If a political manifesto says to voters that if the party comes to power then taxes will be removed is that buying votes from the constituent group? Alright, Barack Obama promised to have a Health Insurance Scheme (Obamacare) for the middle class should they vote him. And they did. Did he buy their votes?
Let’s now move to upfront fulfilment by an incumbent. When Labour was in power in Great Britain it had very interesting freebies. In 2001 Tony Blair offered each child born in the UK £250 for just being born. If people were born in poorer families then they would be given £500. In addition to these payments at birth, there were these other payments of poorest children getting top-ups of £100 on their fifth, 11th and 16th birthdays.
Those who were better off would get half that amount. These incentives ensured that Tony Blair always had the vote from the poor people. Can we now say that this was vote buying in the UK? The reader might think there was no connection between these freebies and elections; well there was.
These were announced at the end of April 2001 when the General Election was scheduled for June 7, 2001. It puts the announcement right in the heart of the election season. Is this vote buying or just an age old electioneering by an incumbent? Let us now come to Zimbabwe. Traditional leaders requested for cars, one Minister of Finance turned the request down.
One of the first things a different minister did was to splash on the cars. That minister did not last five weeks as things moved fast in the advent of the Operation Restore Legacy intervention. That minister was deposed and the old one restored after the cars had already been ordered.
No pragmatic politician would have rescinded the offer which had been made to the chiefs, which offer had been accepted and whose order would have been made already to fulfil the same. It just doesn’t happen politically. It’s like taking a political poison pill. It’s folly. The main opposition parties are quiet.
They can’t be vocal about this issue because they know the political consequences of coming out combatively to say the chiefs should not have got these. They would not take that risk. If this action is vote buying then all the advantages of an incumbent including the tax breaks to certain electorate groups is vote buying.
This piece is not ignoring the materialism of some of the Chiefs. Zimbabwean Chiefs ‘vanoda zvinhu.’ Our chiefs are too materialistic there is no question about that. History is replete with that materialism and poor principle.
The real principled chiefs ended with the First Chimurenga lot and of course lately the likes of Chief Rekayi Tangwena. Most of the contemporary lot are focussed on serving themselves and hardly ever on their people. When they fight for territories it’s all about power.
It’s only about extending their domains. They don’t advocate resettlement for their people as they feel they are losing subjects. Instead, they have farms that keep them away from their communities.
Be that the case as it may, the Government had to work with that team knowing that the blowback from this lost would be devastating. It was between a rock and hard place and the Government had to swing its decision and live to austere another day. Do the chiefs have some political influence? Absolutely.
If they did not have any influence, why else would Mr Morgan Tsvangirai have gone around the country meeting chiefs who had nothing to do with him.
His Chief is there in Buhera. But we saw him meeting chiefs in Shurugwi among other places. Humanikwa is not in Shurugwi. What was he trying to persuade the chiefs of? Let’s move to Joice Mujuru. Did we not see the pictures of Joice Mujuru meeting chiefs in Gutu there on her knees unveiling a lot material goodies she had brought for them?
Wouldn’t a chief who has received those goodies likely to be warmer if not partial to Mrs Mujuru’s Party? Was she vote buying then? Is being nice to chiefs vote buying when done by Zanu-PF led Government and courtesy and generosity when down by the opposition? Isn’t that hypocritical double standards?