COMMENTARY: BZA Manifesto 2018

COMMENTARY: BZA Manifesto 2018

A critical appraisal of the BZA Manifesto

To the Build Zimbabwe Alliance (BZA) team, congratulations on the publication of your manifesto. As ThinkZim (TZ) we agree with you on many of the points you raise as issues that need to be addressed in our country, however, we also have some questions. On the point to follow, we would welcome your feedback.

10 Point 1

Optics

TZ first received the manifesto via WhatsApp. At 21Mb in size, it would consume a significant amount of a 90Mb WhatsApp bundle from Econet. Using our own technology to compress the file the best we could manage was a 12Mb file.  In the context of Zimbabwe, this is still a significantly sized file for people living in a country with one of the highest dollar to Megabyte internet cost ratios.

  • Our suggestion is BZA get the file down to at least 2Mb. Of course, this might mean a loss of gloss or some images but what is important is the message and getting it into the hands of the voters.

Linked to the point above, at 35 pages this document is very wordy. Zimbabweans, in general, are good at reading for exams and for church but seemingly not very good at reading about things that might make their future lives better. Perhaps this is something to be encouraged, a culture of casual reading and research beyond the prescribed texts.

  • Putting together a 1 to 5-page summary pamphlet may ensure that those who are not willing to parse through your “tome” will still get the core of the message you want to get across.
  • Also, a sub-1Mb file is cheaper to transmit to our family and friends in the rural areas and diaspora.

10 Point 2On the issue of the images used in your manifesto, BZA  purports to want to do things differently from the current incumbents. However, by liberally plastering the face of your leader (Convener) all over the manifesto does this not by extension encourage the politics of personality?

No disrespect to Dr Manyika, but this document was the result of a collaborative effort by party members. It is what the party, not just Dr Manyika stands for. Most of the images could be replaced by images of our beautiful country or your party cadres hard at work. Let’s educate people that what a party stands for and the party leadership are more important than one individual who happens to be the leader of the party at this moment in time. This is how the politics of personality begin.

At TZ we hope you will be circulating this manifesto and any summary version faithfully translated into Shona and Ndebele.

Our last point about the manifesto optics is the lack of an email address or WhatsApp address for members of the public to be able to send their queries. Who still uses a P.O. Box in the fast-moving 21st century.

On to some of our more pointed questions about your manifesto…

Government Efficiency

What is the BZA position on the number of full diplomatic missions Zimbabwe has around the world? This would not appear be a big issue until one looks at the number of staff from Zimbabwe sent to run those missions and the cost of buying, renting and maintaining those properties and people.

The diplomatic costs could be significantly reduced by:

  • recruiting local Zimbabweans in-country (where possible) to hold the majority of operational and administrative posts.
  • using technology to reduce the administrative overheads.
  • where possible renting space within a friendly embassy to service Zimbabwean business.

Provincial Lines

The politics of tribe in our country in the 21st century are very much alive and well, before it was ZANU (Shona) and ZAPU (Ndebele) now with the fratricide in ZANU we are seeing clear lines between maZezuru (G40) and maKaranga (Ngwenya). At TZ we acknowledge that we are oversimplifying a somewhat complex state of affairs but the underlying point is the same. TZ has previously proposed the redrawing of provincial boundaries across economic rather than tribal lines as a means of defanging the tribal separatists and promoting inter-tribal integration and cooperation.

On the African continent, the only country which has not seen any overt participation of tribal divisions in national politics since independence is Tanzania. Despite having more than 100 ethnic groups and bordering eight countries, it has succeeded in overcoming tribal tensions in a region where some neighbours have failed to do so. So it is not an impossible task if the political will exists. People must be taught to think of themselves as Zimbabwean first not Zezuru, Karanga, Manyika, Ndau, Korekore, Ndebele, etc.

We believe that this will help with driving forward your objective of provincial business development and recovery.

Governors and Chiefs

In your manifesto you make mention of the reduction of the cabinet, what about governors and chiefs? At TZ we have a view that Governors should be elected to their posts by people who live in those provinces for fixed terms and their salaries derived from the coffers of the province and not from central government. This approach we believe should encourage governors to actually represent and work for their local constituents rather than just blithely doing the bidding of central government and their political masters.

Governors should be encouraged to compete inter-provincially. Combining the re-zoning of provinces on economic lines and by extension downstream districts, the governors will have no choice but to perform. The success of the competition could measured by using the provincial economic output and the quality of life of the constituents as indicators.

Chiefs should lose their direct line to parliament and statehouse and operate in a capacity similar to that of a provincial or district level civil servant.

The Land Question

Your manifesto makes mention of compensation for the disastrous land reform programme – we appreciate something has to be done, however, where will the funding come from, given that there will be so many competing priorities for any new government that is serious about fixing our country?

Taking Government Out of Business

There are a number of theories circulating regarding the purpose of government and below we have identified some our favourites:

  • The ancient Greeks said, government has only one purpose, to improve the lives of citizens. If it doesn’t, there is no reason for it, no reason at all…
  • A government in a democracy is essentially a conservative institution. It is responsible for creating and sustaining markets, enforcing contracts, protecting private property, and producing systems of education and infrastructure that allow commerce to function efficiently… (Mark Funkhouser)Proposed Govt
  • A government should do the things that individuals could not do for themselves, including “maintaining roads, bridges and the like” and dealing with “noncompliance with contracts.” (A Lincoln)

The one thing most are pretty much agreed upon is that the purpose of government is not to go into business with a profit motive in mind.

What is the BZA’s position on closing, selling off or privatising some of the 50 – 70 parastatals and state-owned enterprises that are currently government responsibility and are either financial blackholes like (Air Zimbabwe) or money spinners (ZISCO and Hwange) that somehow never have or make enough money? There are significant examples throughout world economic history that show that state-owned enterprises are usually the worst performing or most inefficiently run.

Mining

One of the largest omissions from the potential sources of income is the building of a local platinum processing facility that will ensure that Zimbabwe gets 100% return on its platinum extraction activities. At the moment Zimbabwe is reliant on the honour of the South Africans to process its platinum ore, this is a situation which can not be allowed to continue given the suspected levels of leakage.

Conclusion

Once again to the BZA team well done on getting such a strong and comprehensive manifesto out. May we reiterate that our comments in this article are about being constructive.  We do not believe we have all the answers but rather like yourselves we want to provoke the conversation.

Many of the points we have raised here as possible solutions are covered in other articles published on this site.

Good luck at the polls in 2018