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Do election manifestos matter in Zimbabwe?

Nelson chamisa

By Harry Ruka Mazhindu

The two main political parties ruling ZANU-PF and MDC Alliance a few weeks ago released their manifestos after months of agonising over what to put, what to prioritise and what to leave. But do manifestos matter anymore? In an era of broken promises and an electorate that count.

Here are three reasons why manifestos matter little to voters, followed by a reason why they are massively important for politicians.

An opposing majority parliament will make them redundant

Manifestos have traditionally been used as a contract with voters and a mandate to take action in government, but that fundamental purpose is ceasing to be relevant in an era when majority governments appear a luxury of the past. The majority of the manifesto has become redundant as the government chooses just a few items, while ditching the rest. However, in the event that a party wins presidency but fails to win majority seats in parliament there will be a challenge in implementing most of the pledges in a manifesto as a compromise with the opposition will be crucial to avert a constitutional crisis were for instance a public finance bill that outline the national budget fails to pass in parliament.

Not many people read manifestos

Very few people actually read them, with personalities playing a much bigger role in how people vote. Most people don’t read manifestos and some instances they just come too late. For example MDC Alliance manifesto was launched after the party had already cloaked over 25 rallies throughout the country. Will there be any need for a manifesto when a party had already been throughout the breath and width of the country canvassing for votes?

Politicians break their manifesto pledges all the time

The government of ZANU-PF in 2013 manifesto pledged to create 2, 2 million jobs but at present the opposite has actually happened with unemployment rate very high with an unofficial figure placing it around 80 percent. The health care system and education sector that the government also improves is currently in disarray. Why have manifestos if politicians are willing to row ignore them after winning elections? Manifestos are colourful with chapters detailing spending on health care, social care, schools, and childcare.

There is so much information that it’s hard even for the very interested, let alone the public, to grasp certain aspects and place them in real context. To manage, one has only to concentrate on whether the policies contained in the manifesto are fully funded. That is where is the money to fund the policies going to come from?

And the reason manifesto matter more than ever to a politician

But for the parties, manifestos are important as ever, if not more so. They represent their opinions for post-election deals, setting out their absolute priorities, red lines, as well as offering potential openness’s to possible coalition partners.

Sadly, by the time the president opens the first session of the new parliament, manifestos will be long forgotten and gathering dust in backrooms. Another point to note is how the manifestos have lacked depth on issues pertaining to taxation in Zimbabwe. There is not even a single party that has shown clarity on how they will at least work on reducing the tax burden on citizens to encourage savings and spending that stimulate economic growth. Even though, we wait to see how the election will pen out on 30 July 2018.


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Byron Adonis Mutingwende