MY TURN WITH TICHAONA ZINDOGA
ZIMBABWE is in an election mode. It has been, for the best of the last four years, even when the result of July 31, 2013, produced clear winners in Zanu-PF and a vanquished opposition – the MDCs. President Mugabe beat Morgan Tsvangirai convincingly.
Yet, somehow, the contest did not end there. Tsvangirai does not believe he is pacified. His supporters – or at least a section of them – do not believe he is, despite the fact that 2013 was his third time unlucky.
That is 14 years of trying. 2018 will be a good 19 years of trying. Good luck to him. The coming election will be significant in many ways: we have heard the phrase “watershed elections” many a time, but it has been abused.
Next year will be the real watershed and mark a tectonic shift in our body politic by way of player, party and policy. It may be the end of post-2000 politics as we have known it.
So the increasing political temperature in the country is understandable. There are frames to look at the situation in the political arena:
a) the configuration of players and political entities
b) the message and messaging
The former frame currently makes the dominant theme in the current political discourse. On the one hand is the opposition trying to find the right formula to defeat Zanu-PF and President Mugabe.
The coalition motif has seen a lot of energy being expended in arguing how Tsvangirai and others can band together. Tsvangirai and his people want him to be the leader of any envisaged coalition which may include Tendai Biti and his People’s Democratic Party; Welshman Ncube (MDC); Joice Mujuru (National People’s Party) and so forth.
There is a lot of back and forth on the issue. We cannot belabour the haggling and the permutations. We may not see a grand coalition, after all, but a couple of contending centres or alliances in the opposition.
On the flip side, Zanu-PF is not divided on who is going to be the candidate in the next election. President Mugabe will be the familiar face and Zanu-PF structures and supporters are psyched up on it.
As we are writing this, on June 27, it is the anniversary of the elections in 2008 that gave us President Mugabe as the winner of the run-off poll that had been necessitated by the indecisive election of March 29 of the same year where Tsvangirai posted a narrow but hugely significant first round lead.
June 27 came about very robustly. Tsvangirai purported to pull out of the race citing alleged victimisation of his supporters. He at that material time appeared to seek refuge in Botswana then sought rent at the Netherlands embassy.
But the run-off was problematic – and it’s not even a secret. This is how we came to have an animal called the inclusive Government, a kind of “power-sharing” agreement that sought to cure the untenable situation.
For its own part, the inclusive Government was meant to be cured of its ills – people liked to call it dysfunctional – by fresh elections that would be held under a new constitution and in conformity with new rules and regulations, including regional standards, that would produce a less contentious result.
The elections came in 2013. President Mugabe was victorious and he is itching for another in 2018.
Outside these main forces, President Mugabe and Tsvangirai plus others, there are some rank outsiders ranging from Lovemore Madhuku to the indefatigable Egypt Dzinemunhenzva.
Message and messaging
What is taking shape now, which is very important, is how the various parties are going to appeal to the people through messaging.
It is critical. Illustratively, 2013 had “Bhora Mugedhi”, Zanu-PF’s manifesto anchored on “Indigenise, Empower, Create Employment” themes and MDC-T’s Jobs, Upliftment, Investment Capital and the Environment (JUICE).
Policymakers on both sides are now working on the successor messages.
Nothing is official yet. Zanu-PF is having a dry run on Command Agriculture and is apparently looking at a larger “command” cluster model where various initiatives and sectors will be given stimuli.
President Mugabe is having “Youth Interfaces” where the command message is being flown about. It will be the story in Masvingo on Friday, and soon enough in Matabeleland North and the remainder of the country’s 10 provinces.
Zanu-PF Secretary for Administration Ignatius Chombo says President Mugabe’s youth rallies are not the campaign proper. A campaign rollout and the manifesto launch are a minimum of almost six months away by a conservative estimation.
We are seeing the back of Zim-Asset, born out of Zanu-PF’s last manifesto, soon. Meanwhile, MDC-T has already started putting together a policy and Nelson Chamisa is the chief there and he is brewing something that he thinks is SMART enough.
Tendai Biti can be trusted to produce something as euphonic (but sometimes really absurd). He has previously given something called ARREST.
Joice Mujuru is holding a convention soon, and hopefully a key message. In the coming months, these ideas will be tested to see how they appeal to Zimbabweans.
In all this, it is critical to know what people of Zimbabwe are losing sleep over. Interestingly, these things are not new and they include:
- Food security
- Social services
These are the simple everyday things that people lose sleep over: food on the tables; a functional economy where you can make and grow wealth; the health of the family where the sick are treated affordably and medicines abound; affordable education for children at all levels; roads, bridges and dams; somewhere and the wherewithal to make a living and a Government that takes care of its citizens, including orphans and old people.
It is just that!
Yet it is not that simple. The opposition has been taunting Zanu-PF that it cannot “rig” the economy.
The opposition likes us to believe that it can “unlock” the economy.
The economy is everything. Which is critical that manifestos that will be milled out from this moment do not sound just euphonic or, in Biti’s case, be of comic value.
They must inspire hope.
Zimbabwe is waiting for a people’s manifesto.
Never mind that emotions may run too far ahead.