Battle of election manifestos around the corner

By Farai Chirimumimba

The 2018 harmonised elections are looming and there is no doubt that political parties are currently desperately scrambling to gather their manifestos. In the following months political parties will launch their documents with a dramatic variety of policies on education, health care, tax, wages and the general economy. Independent candidates who include Advocate Fadzayi Mahere and Linda Masarira who both are apiring House of Assembly candidates have already launched their manifestos.

Last week the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) Chairperson Justice Rita Makarau told a parliamentary committee that there are now 75 political parties up from 35 a few months ago. A manifesto is therefore very useful and serves as a tool for measuring the performance of a Government against issues outlined in the manifesto. Manifestos have long been important primary documents of political parties in most countries as meaningful sources of information regarding a party’s position on a wide range of developmental issues that it hopes to fulfill as a government or as an independent member of parliament for a particular constituency.

Ahead of general elections, there is no doubt that a winning manifesto should revolve around commitment to regain control of the economy through job creation which will definitely resonate well with the common people who want jobs so that they can have food on their table. Zimbabwe’s unemployment rate is estimated at over 90 percent. People want jobs and more jobs. The issues to do with increased production will help the country improve food security save on foreign currency, cut trade deficit, increase capacity. The manifesto should further articulate on unlocking Foreign Direct Investment (FDI), expanding remittances from diaspora citizens, deal with issues of easy of doing business, reining huge burden on tax payers and end enduring cash crisis.

A manifesto written in the full expectation of being in government should present strategies to further stimulate the positives currently emanating from for instance gold receipts and tourism where sales are expected to top US$3 billion and with up to 3 million arrivals respectively. Agriculture as the backbone of the economy should be able to push up export earnings above 50 percent. The manifesto should also divulge solid strategies of dealing with the rampant corruption and simplify access to justice for a common person and issues to do with respect of fundamental freedoms and upholding of human rights. Once the manifestos are released, the stage will be set for a fierce battle on elections day most likely in July/August 2018.

Sadly there is a tendency of manifestos of having unrealistic promises. For instance, the ruling ZANU-PF party has dismally failed to create the promised 2 million jobs in the 2013 manifesto. Governments can change course in the event of an emergency where there is no choice but to reconsider its position. The problem however comes in drawing a line between the necessary changes and the need to fulfill the promises as outlined in the manifesto. It is important for the government to remain flexible. In the case of an emergency, or to secure the expression and will of the people by ensuring the materialisation of the policies. A government should be realistic to its voters that give it power. A party should strive to fulfill the pledges in the manifesto as much as possible to avoid being removed form power in the next election.

Going forward, there should be a link between political party manifestos and long-term national development agenda. However, there is a tendency for development plans to be tagged with a certain political party which will make it almost impossible for any government to want to borrow useful plans from another parties manifesto. Voters will judge the ruling political party by promises and results. A government once in power should become depoliticised, the ideological base of the party should be put aside and the government should not only reflect its party’s colour but the whole country. Candidates’ policy-centred campaigning and left–right distance from their own party are important in explaining individual difference in the constituencies.