Election candidates talk up peace, economic plan

HARARE - "Give peace a chance,” is the message inscribed on a billboard in the sprawling Mbare slum of Harare ahead of elections due in weeks, the first since post-poll violence almost five years ago.

The peace message appeals to Mbare, a flash-point for the 2008 poll violence, all part of a campaign to encourage peace.

Nine similar billboards have been erected in Zimbabwe’s nine other provinces, exhorting peaceful co-existence during polls.

The billboard at Mbare’s Mupedzanhamo flea market — a major food market and transport hub for the rest of the country — depicts real-life members of the three ruling parties in the Government of National Unity (GNU) smiling and holding hands while wearing their respective party regalia.

It’s part of a sustained campaign “to promote peace, tolerance and mutual trust amongst people of different political parties in the country,” according to the Joint Monitoring and Implementation

Committee (Jomic) — a multi-party group established under the unity government to monitor implementation of the 2008 power-sharing pact.

Jomic is eager to avert a repeat of the post-election bloodshed five years ago that followed the disputed re-election of President Robert Mugabe.

Mbare was the scene of some of the worst violence, and residents here fear a flare-up of incidents of violence, as Zimbabwe goes for the crucial vote not only for the presidency, but also for members of parliament and local councillors.

Tendai Moyo of Mupedzanhamo grew up in a family so supportive of Mugabe that her siblings participated in the populist leader’s huge rallies and voted with the masses as he fended off challengers in one election after another.

But Moyo, 34, is one of an increasing number of young Zimbabweans who have grown tired of the moribund economy, the electrical blackouts and Mugabe’s bombastic speeches.

This group could be decisive in an election next month that will determine whether Mugabe rules for another five years.

“There is no other leader I have known besides Mugabe, he came to power when I was still in my nappies,” she said.

“But we can’t find jobs, and we need the economy to start ticking again.”

In no other presidential election since Mugabe came to power in 1980 has he faced a tougher challenge — a vigorous 61-year-old Prime Minister who, in a mad-dash campaign across the country, has built a following by appealing to younger voters.

At his eighth national policy conference held at the Jubilee Christian Centre in Milton Park, in Harare last month, Tsvangirai said an MDC government will place sustainable employment creation at the centre of its development policies and unveiled an economic blueprint dubbed JUICE — an acronym for Jobs, Upliftment, investment Capital and Environment.

He says the blueprint “clearly lays a pathway for the adoption of investment friendly, employment-intensive and economic recovery programs.”

Tsvangirai says JUICE aims to make Zimbabwe’s economy robust once the MDC takes power by creating one million jobs by 2018, increasing economic growth rates exponentially, further reducing inflation, delivering a $100 billion economy by 2040, improving electricity generation and building a social contract.

The former trade unionist has laid much emphasis on criticising Mugabe’s handling of the economy.

“We are the new brooms, we sweep the cleanest,” Tsvangirai told the policy conference attended by hundreds of his supporters dressed in red-shirts and red caps.

While the Constitutional Court ruled that polls must be held by no later than July 31, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) leader hopes all fundamental electoral reforms agreed to in the global political agreement are finalised ahead of the poll.

Dismissing Mugabe’s Zanu PF party as “yesteryear people”, he said that the ex-majority party’s rule was nearing the end saying it has failed to socially-transform the country.

Political analysts say young people hold the deciding vote in this election and constitute the largest political market.

The estimated 7,5 million Zimbabweans between the ages of 18 and 30 make up 67 percent of the electorate, according to the Youth Forum — a non-profit organisation that aims to enhance youth participation and empowerment in policy-dialogue and political decision making.

In previous elections, the young had veered toward Mugabe due to his fantastic academic credentials and charming personality.

But the Mugabe of today is in many ways a far different man from the one who won re-election through brute force in 2008 over a stodgy opposition politician Tsvangirai.

Now 89, Mugabe is plagued by old age and failing health that have left him bloated and moving gingerly.

But political analysts say that Mugabe is a ferocious campaigner and accomplished orator with a keen insight on how to reach voters, as evidenced by opinion polls that give him a marginal lead over Tsvangirai.

And he has, since the beginning of his political life, adeptly cultivated the young and now travels regularly with his daughter Bona and appears in public with her.

The latest opinion poll by the Mass Public Opinion Institute, a Zimbabwean organisation that conducted the fieldwork for the poll commissioned by Freedom House, a US-based group, showed a resurgent Zanu PF on 33 percent with support for the MDC, at 31 percent.

For Mugabe, the cost of losing is too high given the allegations of gross human violations and corruption by the incumbent and those who surround him.

The long ruling leftist leader Mugabe, who is seeking to be re-elected for an eighth term, is styling himself as a champion of the poor, working on increasing access to wealth for many of Zimbabwe’s disadvantaged in a re-election drive his party says “has the capacity to appeal to electorate in a massive way,” according to Zanu PF’s manifesto.

Mugabe’s party is proposing nine empowerment strategies including fast-tracking the transfer of shareholding in foreign firms to local blacks, a “small-scale miner’s fund”, a $20 million farm inputs scheme and has been giving away free seed and fertiliser to villagers.

The 50-year-old liberation party is also proposing a cocktail of measures to curry favour with indigenous traders.

President Mugabe says a further five years would allow him to deepen his “revolution” and increase socialism in Zimbabwe.

But another five years of a Mugabe government is a worrying prospect for some Zimbabweans.

Foreign business owners say some of the president’s policies have made life extremely difficult for them.

Expropriations of land and businesses have sown seeds of uncertainty in the minds of investors.

Foreign currency shortages have made importing extremely difficult, causing headaches for entrepreneurs.

Zanu PF national chairman Simon Khaya Moyo says this “watershed” election will be about preserving the liberation legacy.

“If by unforeseen circumstance we don’t win this election, the legacy of our president is gone and is gone forever, the legacy of our party is gone and gone forever, and we would have squandered the future of our children and our people,” Khaya Moyo warned.

A pro-democracy group Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition predicts physical political violence in 2013 will not be as blatant and as extreme as in the previous June 27, 2008 “election”, says a 27-page report dubbed “Pre-election detectors — Zanu PF’s attempts to reclaim political hegemony.”

“Zanu PF is aware that naked physical violence will not be accepted in Sadc and yet at the same time a relatively free and fair election might undermine its electoral chances,” says the report, compiled by Oxford scholar Phillan Zamchiya.

It says Mugabe’s party will use “psychological warfare premised on manipulating the fear inculcated in communities over years among other strategies.”

On the campaign trail, Mugabe has said he wants to focus on a violence-free, issues-based election and the way he is repeating this message on the stump, is striking.

“The strength of our mobilisation strategies and messages for the forthcoming make-or-break election must be our superior ideology, policies and organisation as Zimbabwe’s only vanguard and revolutionary party,” Mugabe said to his Zanu PF party’s Central Committee.

“The opposition MDC formations are ideologically bankrupt and have no policies to offer.

“We know we will win the forthcoming elections thunderously and convincingly and I therefore exhort you all to desist from tainting our victory with any form of violence.”

Concern about the future is what has made Tendai Moyo put her stock in a future with Tsvangirai.

“I think there is nothing that Mugabe can promise me now that he has failed to do over the past 33 years of his rule,” she says.

“And youths who hope for a bright future with Mugabe in power are day dreaming. So I will vote for the rebirth of the nation,” she said.

Comments (3)

Very good Tendai, what can they do now that they failed to do for example 15 years ago not to worry of the other 18 they claim they could not for they wanted SA to be free first. Join the freedom train because: Hailume gore rino Zanu!!!!!!!!!!!!

Qawe laMaqawe - 2 July 2013

I hope by the time all this is over if ZANU wins they would be any viable company to take over 51% shareholding from because these policies are not working for a poor man on the street ,

tonnyi - 3 July 2013

I hope by the time all this is over if ZANU wins they would be any viable company to take over 51% shareholding from because these policies are not working for a poor man on the street ,

tonnyi - 3 July 2013

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