Stir The Pot:Paidamoyo Muzulu
POLITICAL leaders gain power to retain it. The power of incumbency is fully exploited to make sure they succeed themselves. They will use subtle means, including dishing out State resources to the people to retain power, and President Emmerson Mnangagwa is no different.
On Thursday, Mnangagwa launched his 2023 election campaign thinly veiled as a State of the Nation Address (Sona) and officially stating the legislative agenda for the Fourth Session of the Ninth Parliament.
Mnangagwa has been clear since he assumed power through the November 2017 coup that he is in for the long-haul.
He has the advantage of having a two-thirds parliamentary majority and an opposition in shambles. An opposition that has, so far, failed to critique his policies and offer a credible alternative to the electorate beyond a campaign imbued in ageism and call for change.
Mnangagwa in his slightly over 3 000-word speech made some ambitious promises to the electorate in its different demographics. Promises that would be funded through the fiscus and leaving no doubt that the 2022 national budget to be presented next month will be expansionist in nature.
It does not need a rocket scientist to see that Zanu PF enjoys untrammelled control in rural areas and among the veterans of the liberation struggle. Zimbabwe has 67% of its voters in rural communities and a paltry 33% in urban and peri-urban constituencies.
Mnangagwa, in his speech, made sure he spoke, not only to the 67% rural voters, but also to the urban electorate. A few examples and quotations from his speech will demonstrate that.
The rural is primarily an agricultural economy and he made promises to increase production and funding.
“In agriculture, timely implementation of government programmes is immensely benefitting the sector. The focus of the multi-pronged programmes now seeks to increase rural per capita incomes while also improving household food security and nutrition, he said.
Mnangagwa added: “Farm mechanisation and agriculture modernisation continue to be high on the priority list of the Second Republic. The District Development Fund and other agencies are assisting with the tillage programme for various categories of farmers.”
Reading the opposition’s immediate responses in the mainstream media to the statement shows the opposition did not fully grasp the import of the speech, neither did they realise Mnangagwa had with stealth launched his 2023 campaign.
To the war veterans, who when needed are used as Zanu PF storm troopers, Mnangagwa promised: “The recognition and welfare of the brave men and women who sacrificed for the freedom and democracy we enjoy today is constitutionally guaranteed. 2021 thus witnessed the enactment of the Veterans of the Liberation Struggle Act. The operationalisation of this Act has paved way for the establishment of the Veterans of the Liberation Struggle Board; the Heroes Dependants Assistance Board and the appointment of the War Victims Compensation Fund Commissioner.”
To the urban poor and working class, Mnangagwa promised new infrastructure and the regularisation of informal settlements, This is a masterstroke as the two sprawling slums in Harare South and Mabvuku/Tafara on their own can add a new safe four seats to the rural-Zanu PF.
“Government has prioritised capital spending, with 34% of total expenditure to date, having been earmarked for infrastructure development. The ongoing Phase 2 of the Emergency Road Rehabilitation Programme is indeed transformational across all provinces, districts, cities and towns,” he said.
The President added: “In line with the National Human Settlements Policy, the implementation of the National Housing Delivery Programme is gathering momentum across the country. The regularisation programme for informal and irregular settlements remains high on the agenda.”
Mnangagwa, who has not shied away from being pro-capital had something for the business community. He promised them opportunities to make more money through legislative amendments meant to smoothen their operations and care less about their workers.
To foreign capital, Mnangagwa said Parliament was also expected to ratify the Marrakesh Agreement establishing the World Trade Organisation. This is an agreement that the big world economies have trampled on outrightly decided not to join. However, Zimbabwe joining will prove and deliver the “Zimbabwe is open for business” mantra to foreign capital.
On labour, this matter was extensively covered in the previous column here. In line with neoliberal ease of doing business euphemisms, Mnangagwa has sacrificed workers for the benefit of capital. Employers will be able to hire and fire willy-nilly or some will choose to go the labour broking model. These changes are contained in the proposed Labour Amendment Bill.
Zanu PF has always worried about criticism from non-governmental organisations. It has accused them of being agents of the regime change agenda. To deal with them ahead of the 2023 general elections, Mnangagwa proposed the Private Voluntary Organisations Amendment Bill.
“The Bill seeks to align the Act with best practices, including on adherence to the Financial Action Task Force Standards. Proposed amendments will further ensure that PVOs operate within the thematic parameters, under which they are registered,” he said.
The President put the icing on the cake by also roping in Parliament into his plot. He promised parliamentarians better welfare.
“With regards to the welfare of our parliamentarians, the proposed amendments to the Parliamentary Pensions Act should address deficiencies identified in the present Act,” Mnangagwa said.
By his own admission, Mnangagwa accepted that his Cabinet and two-thirds parliamentary majority could not even make him achieve his legislative agenda in the last parliamentary session.
“I am aware that some Bills could not be dispensed with and were carried over from the Third Session. Of the existing statutes which required to be aligned to the Constitution, it is pleasing that only 42 statutes remain to be enacted under the alignment process. These must be completed during this session,” he conceded.
It is, therefore, easy to conclude that Zanu PF, with a super majority, cannot implement its own legislative agenda, hence Mnangagwa saw it prudent to launch his 2023 campaign. He did it cunningly using Sona and now the ball is in the opposition court to table its response or alternative policy.
Mnangagwa drew the battle-lines and the 2023 battle starts here and now.
- Paidamoyo Muzulu is a journalist based in Harare. He writes here in his personal capacity.