AFTER going through four manifestos, this week we look at the MDC-Alliance manifesto, which I ranked first, at the time at which we started the series.
By Paul Kaseke
Any manifestos released after that date were not considered, but next week will focus on one other manifesto which caught my attention.
Number 1: The MDC-Alliance
The manifesto is a pledge for a “sustainable and modernisation agenda for real transformation.”
The vision in terms of the manifesto is for “an inclusive, socially just, prosperous, tolerant, transformative and democratic developmental state in which people have equal opportunities to pursue happiness”.
The alliance plans to “build a $100 billion economy” and will use planning commissions to better policy making. The alliance will have a cabinet of no more than 15 ministers.
A vital aspect of their manifesto which appealed to me is the concept of nation-building which is needed after our divisive past. The manifesto speaks to this and national healing which will entail confessions, compensation reparations and apologies.
In terms of corruption, criminal sanctions for all corrupt activities will be introduced, special corruption courts will be set up, public officials will have to declare their assets, elected officials will be recalled directly by the electorate and lifestyle audits will be compulsory for those holding public office.
As far as State owned enterprises are concerned, the alliance will oversee the winding up or privatisation of many state-owned entities that have become liabilities. A new Public Entities Corporate Governance Act will be enacted, and its core principles are derived from the Constitution.
Some critics have been quick to point out that the factors for the proposed Act are a copy and paste of the Constitution.
While the manifesto could have stated the principles were based on the Constitution, the failure to do so is immaterial to bread and butter issues or the substance of the policies.
In terms of devolution, the alliance views it as non-negotiable and will facilitate the implementation of devolution as set out by the Constitution.
The alliance further suggests the possibility of relocating the administrative capital of the country to Gweru and renaming the country’s provinces.
The alliance promises to focus on access to justice, enhancing legal literacy and the use of e-filing to replace the current system.
In the security sector, the Alliance promises to improve working conditions for those in the sector, to introduce digital traffic police, to introduce housing schemes, have an honour of service structure, introduce rights-based policing, push for the enactment of an Act governing the conduct of the CIO and to refocus the mandate of the CIO to direct it to focus on external threats, while leaving the task of local threats to the police.
The alliance will focus on revenue management by specifically ensuring the wage bill drops significantly, increase the revenue base, scrap the bond notes, maintain a multicurrency system, clean up the Reserve Bank, join the Rand Monetary Union temporarily, recognise cryptocurrencies, ring-fence US dollar balances in banks, reduce taxes and create a new body to oversee the financial sector, thus removing supervision capacity of financial and banking sector from the Reserve Bank (although I have my reservations on this).
As part of its plans to develop and urbanise the rural areas, the alliance will focus on rural electrification with a thrust on solar based power, developing world class centres in rural areas, providing clean water and sanitation, developing rural roads and developing rural markets.
Healthwise, the alliance will provide for twinning of hospitals, free maternity health care, dedicate 15% of the national budget towards health, legislate that no one may be denied medical treatment but most importantly, introduce “Chamisa Care” — a national health insurance plan that will be financed by the Aids levy, PSMAS, sin taxes as well as employer & employee contributions.
As for the education sector , the Alliance will abandon the “Dokora Curriculum”, introduce e-learning, ensure a textbook ratio of 1:1, provide free primary school education, twin rural schools to urban schools and include a focus on vocational training. In terms of media reforms, the Alliance will ensure that Aippa and Posa are repealed, review the Official Secrets Act and Censorship Act, push for ZBC to use digital means of broadcasting and look at a framework for the self-regulation of the media sector
I am particularly impressed by the focus on the disabled. The alliance plans to provide specific grants and incentives for the private sector for employing disabled persons.
The alliance will ensure the availability of all laws and public documents in braille for the blind and ensure structural compliance on accessibility of buildings for the disabled as well as significant representation in decision making organs.
In relation to gender, the alliance pledges a 50-50 representation and they will change laws around the Marriages Act, inheritance law, divorce and the child marriages. For older persons, the alliance promises free healthcare, free use of public transport and creation of more homes for the elderly .
The inclusion of a detailed focus on the disabled, climate change, laws that need to be changed for gender inequalities to be resolved, the elderly, minimum wage and the introduction of a national health care are certainly most admirable.
I was impressed by the alliance’s decision to embrace cryptocurrencies, which is a step in the right direction as progressive jurisdictions are doing the same.
I was however, not on the same page with the alliance on some issues like the changes of the mandate of the Reserve Bank.
A central bank has nine or 10 key functions depending on your economic school of thought and some of those functions are vital functions that are divorced from the idea of a country owning its own currency.
I don’t believe that creating a new body to take over the functions of the Reserve Bank is necessary, but I do believe that reform of the RBZ is.
The RBZ performs a critical function even without a currency of our own, but it does need to be reformed. There’s no need to reinvent the wheel here.
I was also unable to agree with the suggested introduction of a land use tax which the alliance claims will facilitate productivity and better use of the land. I think it will become an additional yet unnecessary burden on land owners.
Like the issue I had with another political party, the alliance suggests that one of the ways of resolving the land question is to de-racialise land ownership.
This unfortunately, as I discussed previously, misses the restorative nature of land reform in itself. Land reform is an act of affirmative action — a kind of justifiable and constitutionally permissible limitation of the right to equal treatment. By its very definition, it entails reforming land ownership, but this is to be done with a historical view to correct the injustices of the past. Yes, all Zimbabweans should be able to own land, regardless of race but land reform as a process, will unfortunately result in taking from some Zimbabweans, to give to other Zimbabweans who may have been historically disadvantaged. I have not been satisfied with any of the proposals by all parties on the land question and I suggest that this matter is one that requires nationwide consensus and a referendum to determine the way forward, as it is a touchy yet vital aspect.
Another concern for me was the creation of too many commissions which may end up increasing the wage bill of government even though the alliance plans to reduce the number of government ministries. The importance of advisors and commissions cannot be overemphasised but having a number of these will inevitably become a financial burden on the country.
As a final criticism ( though it is a suggestion really), the Chamisa Care initiative is a brilliant idea and will benefit many Zimbabweans, but a careful balancing act needs to be done to ensure that even though the average citizen is the main beneficiary of the plan, the insurance does not further burden taxpayers or workers. If they can manage to ensure that the average citizen gets the benefits of the plan without necessarily overburdening them with further deductions, then it would be triumphant. Unfortunately, the current state of affairs does not favour a compulsory introduction of such a plan when many citizens are struggling to put food on the table.
Notwithstanding the few concerns I had, some of which I did not necessarily engage here, this manifesto was thoroughly researched and though lengthy, it serves as a workable blueprint for the rebuilding of Zimbabwe. Regardless of the outcome of the coming elections, one would be foolish not to engage many of the plans detailed in the manifesto… just saying!
Paul Kaseke is a legal adviser, commentator, analyst and former law lecturer with the Wits Law School & Pearson Institute of Higher Education (formerly Midrand Graduate Institute). He serves as director and current group chair of AfriConsult Firm. He writes in his personal capacity. You can give him feedback via email: email@example.com or follow him on twitter @paulkasekesnr