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  • Zimbabwe's Elections 2013 - Index of Articles

  • Crisis Report Issue 203
    Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition
    July 25, 2013

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    Feya Feya hosts election manifestoes debate

    The Feya Feya campaign on Wednesday July 25, 2013, hosted the Feya Feya debate on political party manifestoes, at the Media Center in Harare. The debate was aired live on ZiFM Stereo, a commercial broadcaster and streamed live on the internet, breaking new ground in terms of reach and access to information.

    The debate attracted a full house studio audience of approximately 500, and is the closest thing that Zimbabwe has had to a head to head live political parties “Presidential Debate” type event which is broadcast.

    The Feya Feya debate was collaboration between the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition (CiZC), Combined Harare Residents Association (CHRA) and the Media Centre. The debate dubbed Feya Feya Debate, assisted in nudging the 2013 harmonized election campaign trail into the turf of ideas beyond smear campaigns and populism by political actors.

    The Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) led by Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai was represented by the party’s National Organizing Secretary, Minister Nelson Chamisa while the Zimbabwe African National Patriotic Front (Zanu-PF) was represented by former legislator and Zanu-PF politburo member, Mr Patrick Zhuwawo. The MDC led by Prof. Welshman Ncube was represented by party Vice President Edwin Mushoriwa.

    Speaking about the event before it commenced, McDonald Lewanika, director of the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition (CiZC) said: “At Crisis we believe that debate is freedom and always do what we can to promote open debate, especially at critical political moments like the one we are at with an election just under a week away.

    “The Feya Feya debate follows in the tradition of the Crisis debates, which were held during the Constitution making process, whose format does not lend itself well to politicking, sloganeering and opaqueness of issues.”

    Lewanika added that as the organizers, the Media Centre, CHRA and the Feya Feya campaign “believe that the people of Zimbabwe, (besides the rallies which are unitary in set up with each political party selling its spin) have a right to see these parties side by side, hear their issues in comparison and make an educated choice based on that”. He said: “The debate is an attempt to see beyond the “old people” and “ugly faces” discourse because the election is not a beauty contest but a focus on pertinent issues and leaders’ visions and plans for the country.”

    Lewanika shared that the Feya Feya debate on political parties manifestos was a unique initiative which saw a campaign, Feya Feya, a social movement, CHRA, and a specialized technical partner, Media Centre, creating an unusual synergy with ZiFM.

    The synergy, he shared, would see the event being accessible to the ordinary masses through CHRA’s network, tech savvy citizens and international solidarity partners through the Feya Feya international network and Facebook and Twitter platforms, radio through ZiFM and video and additional media platforms through the Media Center.

    The venue at the Media Centre was packed with a diverse audience, which included members of the public, business executives, civil society leaders and journalists who witnessed as the parties advertised their governance menus which they would dish out to Zimbabweans if they were elected into power on July 31.

    Broadcasting the debate live on radio, streaming it on internet and tweeting about it live, meant it was the first such single Feya Feya campaign event to reach out to thousands of people beyond physical and space constraints, within and without the boarders of the country, following the endorsement of the campaign by over 83 civil society organisations at a conference held in Bulawayo on June 27, 2013.

    The three parties which were represented are part of the outgoing Government of National Unity (GNU) established by the Global Political Agreement (GPA) in February 2009, and are largely seen as the major political actors in the country.

    In a bid to be retained by voters in government beyond the imminent polls, the parties launched their manifestoes within three weeks after the proclamation of the election date on June 13, but thus far the election has, largely, been characterized by sloganeering, slander and promoting personalities ahead of issues and what the parties stand for.

    Political parties have so far traversed the length and breath of the country on the campaign trails courting potential voters, who on July 31 2013 will have the final say on who presides over the state for the next five years.

    Asked about her feeling on the idea of live manifesto debates which brought the contesting parties on one platform, one female attendee Viola Chitukutuku who is a registered voter said: “It is important for us to hear what the political parties are offering so that when they fail to deliver we can remove them with our “x” as we did when we put them in power.

    “I think you should have done this debates as soon as the campaign started so that we could have the political parties debate on their manifestoes and assess their manifestoes in time.”

    The culture of live election manifesto debate has been a part of modern day electioneering in advanced and advancing democracies, which has its roots in the United States of America. In the immediate past elections in the United Kingdom and Kenya, televised debates were introduced for the first time.

    On July 21, 2013 at a rally in Mkoba Gweru, Morgan Tsvangirai, the sitting Prime Minister and aspiring Presidential candidate, challenged his four competitors to a live debate, but his challenge has not seen any takers so far.

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