OVER the past few weeks, my colleague Paul Kaseke has been analysing what he identified as the top five manifestos and he simplified the jargon thrown in them as he unpacked them for everyone to easily digest the key features and weaknesses of the manifestos.
By Thabani Mnyama
However, after having commenced the series with only five manifestos, we stumbled upon a late entry that caught our attention and warranted a dedicated analysis of another policy plan . This piece is, therefore, centred on the manifesto from the Alliance for People’s Agenda (APA).
The APA manifesto is a decent 56-page long document and while it seems shorter than other manifestos, to judge it on this alone would be deceiving as what matters most is the depth of policies in it. The APA manifesto is built on the bedrock of constitutionalism and meritocracy (core values and competence). The aspect of their emphasis on meritocracy makes them stand out from the rest, as they stress points that one should get elected based on their merit. This is already a democracy dilemma, because traditionally people in a democracy are usually elected along populist lines, with less emphasis on their merit, but APA believes that it can change this position which impliedly means a change of the Constitution. This raises the pertinent question most have been asking Nkosana Moyo. How does he plan on getting elected, yet he does not command a majority following compared to his rivals from MDC Alliance and Zanu PF? Is he being naïve and turning a blind eye on reality, believing that he can win without holding rallies like others? How does he plan on having his policies passed in Parliament, since he does not have a majority considering he has fielded not more than 15 candidates for the House of Assembly seats? Thankfully , this analysis is confined only to the contents of the manifesto and its implementation – is a discussion for another day.
The APA manifesto explores interesting ways of resolving the current liquidity crisis. The first is to create budget surpluses for the government. The stimulation of the economy will also play a huge role in this, but this forms part of the medium-term plan.
APA promises to lower corporate and personal income tax rates to around 15% and 20% as part of review of the tax code. They have set out provisions to cater for the security of land tenure by affording every Zimbabwean a right to secure legal title to land. What I would have preferred to read about more in terms of achieving this goal would have been how they plan to deal with issues of property rights in Zimbabwe and in the case of agricultural land, how they plan to deal with section 72, specifically subsections (2-8) of the Constitution in light of how they want to re-allocate land as laid out in their property rights legislation in which they pledge to repackage land to cater for communal farming space, after which title deeds and/or 99-year land leases will be issued. They promise to respect property rights and recognise the need for legal settlement with those farmers evicted without compensation. This part of their manifesto may conflict with the sentiments of many Zimbabweans, given how many now seem to be pro-land without compensation because of the breach of the Lancaster House Agreement on “willing-buyer willing-seller” by the British, which then affected the compensation aspect to the white commercial farmers
APA proposes to significantly address the cost aspect of the civil service by reducing the size of government, starting at Cabinet level to 17 ministries and removing the posts of deputy ministers because they believe these do not serve much purpose. This is so because deputy ministers do not enjoy executive powers or share in executive authority. Their redundant role, which has been explored by Kaseke, is an unnecessary and avoidable wage burden. APA plans to introduce junior ministerial posts which will be filled by shadow youths aged 35 and below and ensure that the youth have a value adding voice in Cabinet. The criticism of this is that it can be seen as recreating the same set up with the present deputy ministers who were at some point often seen as junior ministers in training under the Robert Mugabe regime. Will their presence not require financial support from the government, which will cause the same problem which the removal of the deputy ministers is meant to solve? It could well be that APA is going in circles with this one, but the basic principle of getting the youth involved is the furthest any party has gone in bringing youth to within governance space.
Their action plan for the government wage bill share of expenditure is divided into three stages. First is the short-term, which is to end the financial crisis by generating budget surpluses for the Zimbabwean government. The medium-term plan will open Zimbabwe’s agriculture sector to its most capable farmers, leading to a rise in agricultural productivity, a fall in food prices, an increase in agricultural exports and a curtailment of Zimbabwe’s import bill. Lastly, the long-term goal which is to turn Zimbabwe into a globally competitive economy by accumulating savings. The Zimbabwean economy will need to generate a current account surplus and obtain debt forgiveness. The tax base will be expanded to ensure that all working Zimbabweans will pay tax. State-owned monopolies enjoyed by Zesa and others, will be dismantled by introducing private companies to compete for the delivery of services. APA will also ensure that there is partial privatisation of State-owned companies.
APA will insist on devolution, servant leadership, the distinction between State institutions and parties as well as the rebranding of ZBC into a non-partisan national asset. One of the impressive features of the manifesto is the staggered development plan or the roadmap for the plan. In the first two years APA will work on stability and restoring confidence and the next phase would be from year two to five, where economic recovery is the focus and the last phase is transformation and national building, which takes place from year five onwards.
The APA manifesto also touches on health care and education and briefly details how to effectively resolve challenges in these sectors. In the education sector, the party plans on having a special commission on education, which will resolve curriculum challenges and salaries amongst other things. APA will prepare the country to participate in global education tests to see how students fare on the international scale and will have free higher education for certain priority courses. Loans and grants will be provided for other students.
While covering quite a great deal of aspects, it does seem that they ignored disability rights, which is most regrettable because people living with disabilities have been marginalised and sidelined in decision-making processes under the Zanu-led governments, so there is not much change APA brings to the table here. There is but one fleeting mention of APA’s intention to address this aspect, but I am not convinced that this was their strongest point. Another key area which was left out was the issue of legal reforms. We have laws which need to be amended and some which need to be completely scrapped if we are to have the democracy promised under the APA manifesto. There are a lot of loopholes in our laws, which have resulted in the President holding so much power and there is also the issue of checks and balances, which they failed to address in specific detail. This doesn’t remove the possibility of recreating another all-powerful executive presidency. It is quite apparent that while there is a strong economic thrust, the social and legal aspects of the manifesto were not as specific or expansive as they could have been, and this can be seen as a weakness of the manifesto.
In general, though , the APA manifesto is a brilliant document, with a great vision on how to transform Zimbabwe into a competitive economy, simultaneously being the logistics hub connecting Central Africa to Southern Africa by 2030 when we will have our 50th independence anniversary. Important lessons can be drawn from it just as of other parties discussed in the series