Zimbabwean voters deserve respect

Zanu PF, which has been in power for 43 years, says its accomplishments in the past five years will be its “manifesto”.

FOR probably the first time in its history, Zimbabwe’s ruling Zanu PF party will go into an election without a manifesto in a clear demonstration of its disdain for voters.

Zanu PF, which has been in power for 43 years, says its accomplishments in the past five years will be its “manifesto”.

Such a stance raises a lot of questions about the commitment of the party’s leadership to change Zimbabwe’s dire circumstances.

A manifesto is generally described as a publication issued by a political party before a general election.

It contains a set of policies that the party stands for and projects it commits to implement if elected to govern.

The document can be used by the electorate to track performance of the governing party and this engenders a culture of accountability.

Ahead of Wednesday’s harmonised elections, the Nelson Chamisa-led Citizens Coalition for Change, Douglas Mwonzora’s MDC-T, the National Constitutional Assembly led by Lovemore Madhuku and the Elisabeth Valerio-led UZA have unveiled their manifestos.

Manifestos are not mandatory but the document helps voters to make informed decisions. Releasing an election manifesto is a sign that a party respects the electorate and it is a foundation for dignified campaigns.

Zanu PF’s desperate search for votes has been more about optics not substance. People are enticed to attend rallies with French fries, fried chicken, bread and mealie-meal. Then they are bussed around the country as evidence the ruling party has supporters.

That is not the way to treat the electorate.

Campaigns must be driven by real issues and not trinkets.

Zimbabwe is facing a myriad of challenges such as unemployment, collapsing infrastructure, lack of access to social services, drug and substance abuse, corruption and a widening gap between the rich and the poor.

August 23 offers Zimbabweans an opportunity to vote for candidates that have solutions to the never ending problems, but they can only do so if the candidates and their parties make promises, which should be contained in manifestos.

Zanu PF’s strange position on manifestos is proof that President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government does not believe in democracy.

From a flawed delimitation exercise to brazen attempts to block some candidates from contesting, the government’s pre-election conduct has been nothing short of being scandalous.

A few days before the polls, the printing of ballot papers was still a subject of court cases.

Government has also been changing election rules in violation of the Constitution, such as the one on postal votes and election of provincial councils.

In some instances, Zanu PF opponents have been prevented from holding rallies by the police.

There are also rising cases of political violence that have been blamed on ruling party supporters and, as has become the norm, the voters roll is a crime scene.

All the above are ingredients of a disputed election.

Mnangagwa, who is running for what should be his last term in office, has missed an opportunity to reset the country after nearly three decades of Robert Mugabe’s misrule. The Chinhu Chedu sense of entitlement is the reason the ruling party has no manifesto and it is a real threat to democracy.

Zimbabweans deserve better.

  • Kholwani Nyathi is editor-in-chief of Alpha Media Holdings and editor of The Standard

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