Tichaona Zindoga Political Editor
The release of the “BUILD” manifesto by a group appearing to be led by former Vice President Joice Mujuru two days ago whipped some sections of society into the familiar frenzy. The former Zanu-PF Number Two was kicked out of the party leadership last year and relieved of the membership of the revolutionary organisation early this year following accusations that she plotted to unconstitutionally unseat President Mugabe.
The interregnum has been characterised by an unsettling, if incomprehensible, silence by Dr Mujuru, especially as many people expected her to come out guns blazing both as a response to her ugly ejection and as a statement of herself as a political player. The release of the manifesto with her signature to the private media on Tuesday ranks as the boldest political move she has taken post-December 2014 Congress.
Those angling for drama are already seeing her tussling for political space with her erstwhile comrades in Zanu-PF, and in particular President Mugabe. Where a mere two-page document has been placed in two newspapers as adverts, some people are already seeing an elixir that will shake the political landscape.
For those that are opposed to the ruling party, Zanu-PF, there is the beginning of the end wrought by this woman. It will be useful to interrogate the full import of this development — the flighting of this political advert in two opposition newspapers that some want to project as an earth-shattering event.
It will be argued here that if the political outfit that purports to coalesce around Dr Mujuru comes to pass, it will not pose any terminal danger to the ruling Zanu-PF and President Mugabe.
Rather, it stands to hurt the prospects of the opposition MDC-T.
The reasons are varied.
The spokesperson of the MDC-T, Obert Gutu, has complained that the Builders stole the ideas of the former labour party — and he illustrates it very well.
“You will realise that most of the issues that are raised in that blueprint have already been raised by the MDC e.g. the need to respect property rights as well as to respect and uphold the rule of law,” Gutu is quoted by one newspaper as saying. “We have always been talking about the need for a free press and also that all Zimbabweans, regardless of race, colour or creed should have equal access to land.
“In a way, therefore, the Mujuru policy blueprint is speaking our language; the document is singing our chorus.
“If anything, the Mujuru policy blueprint has got more in common with the MDC blueprint as enunciated in the JUICE and ART policy blueprints.”
Gutu is telling the truth, and in fact he makes more sense than one Tapiwa Mashakada of the same party claiming President Mugabe stole his ideas to come up with the recent 10-Point Plan for Economic Growth. The fact is that the Mujuru’s Builders appropriated the very ideas and language and repertoire that we all had come to associate with the MDC.
Remove Dr Mujuru’s signature and replace it with Morgan Tsvangirai’s name, it still make sense as an anti-Zanu-PF manifesto.
Examples in major areas should suffice.
The document states in the beginning that, “Zimbabwe belongs to all people who call it home, regardless of colour, creed, disability, gender, race or religious background. Together we can BUILD Zimbabwe into a modern democratic State, with a vibrant economy where every citizen is responsible for peace, freedom, democracy and can prosper. Zimbabwe is part of the global village.”
Where the MDC group calls itself social democrats, the Dr Mujuru group say they are “national democrats”.
BUILD proposes “the State acting as a facilitator and regulator” of markets while MDC believes that the state should be “in partnership with the private sector play(ing) an entrepreneurial or developmental role similar to that of the East Asian Tigers”.
BUILD proposes a “wholesale review of the Indigenisation Act” and “emphasise(s) Economic Empowerment that attracts investment and promotes the broad-based socio-economic and infrastructure development objectives of BUILD” while MDC’s JUICE “advocates for a broad based economic (BBE) upliftment of citizens by expanding people’s choices in attaining sustainable livelihoods”.
Similarities also exist in letter and spirit regarding issues such as the repeal of AIPPA and POSA; voting by Diasporans, dual citizenship; the setting up of a national healing mechanism; respect for property rights, including land on which score both parties seem to apologise and seek to reverse the land reform programme that the ruling Zanu-PF undertook successfully.
It is clear from the foregoing that the real contest for space will be between MDC-T and the Mujuru project as they fight to offer a credible alternative to Zanu-PF.
Whether out of folly or wisdom, the Mujuru project is firmly an MDC lookalike characterised by former members of Zanu-PF. Barring any coalition between these two parties, this will significantly eat into the support and material base of the MDC-T. At the moment many pundits have been casting Dr Mujuru as a more sellable alternative to Tsvangirai in the opposition movement.
Tsvangirai, with his big ego and having been touted as the face of the opposition, will conceivably not allow himself to play second fiddle to Dr Mujuru hence a lot of discomfort between the two parties which may as well preclude any unity.
That will leave the opposition as divided as ever and incapable of defeating Zanu-PF. On the other hand, the fact that Mujuru and company are former Zanu-PF members who may have been considered “reformists” is something that needs to be examined closely, as well. The mere fact that they now are part of the opposition makes their job difficult in at least two ways.
First, having left the ruling party, they automatically assume the shape of the enemy and sellout and once one is labelled as such, they are politically finished.
History has proved that individuals that fall out of favour with the ruling party ride into the sunset: the likes of Edgar Tekere, Margaret Dongo, Dumiso Dabengwa and Simba Makoni being prominent examples.
Secondly, while the likes of Mujuru and others before her may have been useful as “reformists” while in Zanu-PF, they are practically useless outside of it because they have to win power first — which is a daunting task itself — for them to show their moderate side while in Government.
This means that the Mujuru project may soon be shocked that being in opposition is not a walk in the park. Another important fact to consider in this matrix is that Zanu-PF is reforming itself and its policies. This spells trouble for opposition.
Zanu-PF is revisiting and revising such issues as the land reform, where it is auditing holdings and sizes and encouraging productivity. Some whites have even of late been offered land and guaranteed stay on their farms, especially those in the dairy and other especially productive sectors.
The indigenisation policy is equally under review and is being fine-tuned.
Government has always insisted that indigenisation is not cast in stone, and is not, in common parlance, a one-size-fits-all initiative. Similarly, the political reforms that the opposition has been clamouring for have been provided for in the Constitution and are generally guaranteed. While it is conceivable that the call for political reforms could have made more sense 15 years ago, where they have not been provided for, today many people are preoccupied with having food on their table.
What will bring this food is what will matter in the coming few years. The present Government is too keen to revatilise agriculture, bring investors and roll out lots of jobs under the aegis of Special Economic Zones, of which it has budgeted — planned for — in its Zim-Asset and 10 Point Plan blueprints.
In a nutshell, there is not much that the opposition as presently configured, or as a compound of MDC and the Mujuru project, can do to unseat Zanu-PF. That is why the real contest will be between these minnows.