MDC manifesto will change Zim for the better: Tsvangirai

HARARE - Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai has launched his party’s election manifesto, which he says is a plan to change Zimbabwe for the better.

He said the optimistic plan would bring a “new kind of government” with less State and more “people power”.

Pledges include pursuing a social market economy prioritising the use of resources for growing the economy, increasing the national gross domestic product (GDP), promoting free enterprise while providing social safety nets to ensure that economic growth is shared by all.

It means committing to a democratic developmental State that respects market forces but also ensures that economic growth is shared by all citizens, what Tsvangirai calls “a socially-just economy.”

President Robert Mugabe’s Zanu PF has dismissed the policy conference saying it was “style over substance” and claimed some of the policies were plagiarised from the government work programme, an assertion vehemently rejected by the MDC.

In other election developments,  Zanu PF has also launched its manifesto and tackles productivity on the land, indigenisation and empowerment, health, education and youth empowerment.

In a speech launching the MDC manifesto at Jubilee Christian Centre in Milton Park in Harare, Tsvangirai said it was the biggest call to arms this country has seen in a generation.

No government could solve all problems on its own and he wanted “everyone to get involved”, adding government should be the partner of the big society, not its boss.

There is a distinct difference in philosophy between the MDC and Zanu PF, with the pro-democracy party saying it will “secure property rights while ensuring fair, just and transparent regulation which is prospective, certain and predictable”, while Zanu PF was pledging that a drive to transfer ownership in foreign firms from foreigners into the hands of local blacks was the only game in town.

The 60-year-old trade unionist-cum-politician offers a sharp contrast with Mugabe, who is 89- years-old and has had treatment throughout much of his current term.

Critics fear Tsvangirai will roll back social programmes like the empowerment programme initiated by Mugabe, a move he confirmed.

Polls suggest the race may be tight.

If the results are close, many fear a period of instability.

Tsvangirai believes it is a close race, as evidenced by his recent speeches in which he spoke directly to the international business community, assuring them and other institutions that things will be OK if he wins.

“Under an MDC government, the State will be a facilitator of economic activity to enable innovation and business to flourish,” Tsvangirai said.

“When business flourishes, the market for jobs expands. There will be more variety and choice for job-seekers. There will be competition among employers which will ensure that those who offer the best terms and conditions get the best labour and consequently in a scenario where there is a ‘‘Race to the Top’’ rather than a ‘‘Race to the Bottom’’, employees stand to benefit.

Together with our jobs blueprint, JUICE, which we re-launch today, the economic policy aims to increase jobs through facilitating investment.”

Tsvangirai seem to be taking Zimbabwe back to the “centre ground” of politics, away from the “narrow focus” it had in the past.

“Our policy position on investment is clear in that we will encourage and facilitate both local and foreign direct investment (FDI),” Tsvangirai said.

He also singled out infrastructure development as a key priority and one of the key pillars in his development model.

The policies launched at the weekend cover energy and power development, housing, transport, ICT and water management and development.

Tsvangirai said the MDC policy “ensures that we will leverage our mineral resources in a way that promotes the enjoyment of wealth by all Zimbabweans.”

“We are totally opposed to elitist personal aggrandisement projects that are disguised as empowerment models,” he said.

“We will create a fair, transparent and efficient Sovereign Wealth Fund that will truly benefit the whole country, not sections or individuals whose sole motivation is unbridled greed.

Transparency and proper management of revenues derived from diamond and other mining activities are critical parts of our plans.”

On land, security of tenure is a key priority for an MDC government, according to Tsvangirai.
“We will carry out a comprehensive land audit to ensure that land is held and used in fair, transparent and equitable way,” he said.

He said those who have suffered human rights transgression will be compensated by an MDC government.

“An MDC government will ensure that the State owns up to its responsibilities for the trauma that the people of Zimbabwe have suffered in the past,” he said.

An MDC government will encourage and support collective bargaining agreements; and ensure the labour laws are harmonised so that the curtain between civil servants and other workers is lifted.

Under social policies, the party proposes safety nets to deal with matters of social security, health and education.

Tsvangirai said he was glad they had pushed successfully for the inclusion of devolution in the new constitution, in fulfilment of a long-held policy.

More importantly, he said the MDC will ensure Zimbabwe was open for business.

“Internationally, we want to get Zimbabwe back into the family of nations,” he said.

“We cannot afford to live in isolation. We must re-engage the international community and strengthen our relations with all progressive nations of the world. We do not want to be a problem-child of Sadc anymore but to re-take our place as leader and facilitator of peace, prosperity and progress.”

In a pointed address that was significant because questions exist about whether the military, whose leadership ranks is stacked with Mugabe loyalists, will accept a defeat, Tsvangirai say his security policy ensures that the security services are accorded the respect they earn through their service and also that they respect the citizens whom they serve.

“Our policy says the people of Zimbabwe must respect and not fear their soldiers and policemen; it says that the relationship between soldiers and police officers and the civilians, is like that of fish and water,” Tsvangirai said.

“The civilians are the water. This was true in the liberation struggle and it brought the success of independence and it should be true now and in the future. Our policies promote the idea of security services that are professional, unbiased and non-partisan in the service of the State.”

Tsvangirai says he will win by a wide margin and a transition will be peaceful. - Gift Phiri, Political Editor

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