Underestimating the Office of the President

WHEN you listen to the speeches of our presidential candidates before elections, rarely do you get to hear of public policy.

Sadly public policy is yet to resonate with the psyche of the Zimbabwean voter, as people like Nkosana Moyo and Noah Manyika will testify.

These are two of the few presidential candidates who over the past years, have at least tried to sell policy ideas to the electorate.

Morgan Tsvangirai was a brave man, and he founded a political party purely on the clout of bravery, not brains.

The brutalisation of student protesters and union activists in the late 1990s, coupled with the tragic treatment of opposition politicians like Patrick Kombayi in preceding years meant that one needed a bit more than brilliant alternative ideas to come up with an opposition party.

Zanu-PF simply lost relevance with the emerging generation of the time, and the more it faced criticism and opposition the more it perfected the art of using state machinery to silence dissenting voices.

The December 1997 to Jan 1998 food riots made Tsvangirai the star man of bravery. For two years students and civic leaders pushed him hard to front a new opposition party, and what they lacked which Tsvangirai had was not brilliant ideas. It was bravery to face the monster establishment.

The late Morgan Tsvangirai, pictured here with MDC Alliance leader Nelson Chamisa

In his inaugural speech at Rufaro Stadium, Morgan Tsvangirai unsurprisingly got himself arrested after telling Mugabe to go peacefully “or we will remove you violently.”

It was neither a mistake nor a bluff. That was Tsvangirai’s understanding of his new role. It took very clever lawyers to argue on technicalities and capacity to carry out the threat; to get Tsvangirai out of trouble.

The State had also acted overzealously by preferring the ultimate charge of treason instead of the lesser charge of inciting violence. With treason they wanted Tsvangirai’s head chopped off, while the lesser charge would mean a minimal custodial sentence of perhaps two years or so.

Anyway, this was the birth of protest politics as opposed to alternative politics.

The MDC became a hate channel towards the establishment, and Zanu-PF reciprocated in kind by not only brutalising and barring the MDC from its strongholds, but also carrying out massive propaganda portraying the MDC as a puppet sellout party working with the much hated colonialists and imperialists in order to recolonise Zimbabwe.

We had elections in 2000, 2002, 2005, 2008, 2013 and 2018, and at no time in any of these elections did we see a policy war between the two major parties.

Yes there were manifestos carried around at rallies, but not even the aspiring presidential candidates from across the divide seemed to have an idea what they contained.

Only Robert Mugabe would occasionally show flashes of policy brilliance when he chose to, but he had no challenger.

The late President Robert Mugabe

Tsvangirai manufactured red cards to sing, scold and shout away Zanu PF at rallies, and all he did was passionately sing, dance and sloganeer, going “Hezvoko! Bwaa!!” “Jongwe mupoto!”, whatever that means.

What we ended up with is the current extremes of a deadly polarised body politic. There is hatred between the two tribes of Zanu-PF and MDC supporters – irreconcilable hatred and intolerance.

In comes ED Mnangagwa and Nelson Chamisa in 2018. To their credit, there is an attempt at selling public policy. However the promises from both politicians largely did not even rise to the level of nonsense.

President Mnangagwa and Zanu-PF gladiator Energy Mutodi, 2017 photo.

One was promising to build an average of 150 homes a day, and the other was promising village airports and small aircrafts to carry market gardening produce from villages to cities.

While both sides mocked each other’s eyeball catching foolishness, we did not see any meaningful articulation of public policy, like measurable outcomes from provable action plans.

We did not hear of any budget figures, where the money would come from, how it would be invested to fund what projects over what timeframe, and the projected outcomes towards measurable economic growth.

One side chanted “ED Pfeee!” and the other counter chanted, “Chamisa Chete Chete!“ as if these two relatively unintelligent guys had policy magic powers in their names.

People do not eat ED or Chamisa’s election victory. They need viable policy ideas far deeper than “We are open for business,” or “We have the keys to unlock this economy.” Policy is show us the open doors to business, or show us the keys to unlock our economy.

Chamisa knows hundred percent he has no idea how to unlock an economy, let alone ours, or what the keys to do so look like.

Equally ED knows no deeper than travelling around masquerading as a deal broker across capitals of any country that bothers to host our circus.

We need to fix our economic environment to suit what attracts foreign investment, and that starts with transparency, integrity, and evident Return on Investment.

Sane people do not go around giving $15 billion free money to unthinking Africans as Chamisa believes, or throwing in their capital in shady investments portfolios just to make Emmerson Mnangagwa look like a good President.

There is need for a viable social contract driven by trust, faith and goodwill on the part of investors, the government and society in general.

This calls for expert planning and deep intellectual thought processes, as well as doable actions within specified periods, as set and supervised by a visionary leader of government.

Zimbabwe we are one and together we will overcome. It is homeland or death!

  • Reason Wafawarova is a former civil servant. He writes in his personal capacity.

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