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Zimbabwe's Elections 2013 - Index of Articles
point guide to reading Zimbabwean political party manifestos in
July 09, 2013
The two main
political parties in Zimbabwe have launched their manifestos
for the harmonized elections scheduled for July 31 2013. Other
parties will most certainly do the same, though with less pomp and
ceremony. Given that there will be a lot of insistence on which
manifesto is better, please see below some brief pointers as to
some criteria on how to read these much vaunted documents.
All of our major parties have the fault/strength of having served
in the outgoing inclusive
government. One of them for more years than others but all the
same, their manifestos cannot be read as though they are all completely
new to government. In essence the manifestos must be read on the
basis of all incumbent parties' performance in the outgoing government,
acknowledgements (if any) of their mistakes and a realistic assessment
of what they claim to have been their successes.
complete/holistic reading: Party manifestos, much like
a constitution cannot make good sense in isolated parts. They must
be sequential and each part must reflect the stated ideological
framework that the party in question espouses. Nitpicking sections
that affect ones social or class grouping may provide a feel good
moment but either way the manifesto will be meaningless without
its wholesome parts.
vs Ridiculous Propositions: In election periods most parties
vying for office make the most ridiculous of proposals. Assess them
against the political and economic realities that you know to be
faced by the country and its citizens. As the perennial election
joke goes, some parties may promise to build bridges where there
are no rivers.
in the detail: Party manifestos tend to gloss over the
details of what they identify as the problem or how they quantify
the solution (eg unemployment figures and projected solution timeframes).
If you have time, cross-check the figures and qualitative assertions
in the manifestos. If you don’t have time, take it all with
a tablespoon of salt.
local government proposals: Most parties talk big in their
manifestos and this normally means they concentrate on central or
national power. They tend to skim over local government. A party’s
democratic ethos is generally shown by how seriously it takes lower
levels of government that have an immediate impact on people’s
lives (water, health, education, transport et al). If a manifesto
does not talk to these issues with relative seriousness, think about
check proposed policy on media and freedom of expression:
Most party manifestos will talk about their commitment to the rule
of law, human rights and the separation of powers. They will however
be muted on committing to freedom of expression, access to information
and media freedom. Their approach tends to want to retain control
of the media and leave what they say about the latter as ambiguous
as possible. The more ambiguous the proposals the more likely they
intend to curtail freedom of expression.
out for tokenism and mimicry: Party manifestos tend to
be characterised by a lot of tokenism and 'copying and pasting'.
Paying lip service to much quoted phrases without substantiating
them on paper. E.g. The ‘market re-capitalization’,
‘public-private partnerships’, ‘foreign direct
investment’ ‘job creation’ ‘gender equality’
‘youth empowerment’. These are normally written out
of context and as though they have been copied out of a World Bank
out immediate deliverables: Each party tends to promise
quick deliverables upon assuming power. Mark these out and hold
them to account on their first day in office. Even if you did not
vote for them.
time conscious: Whichever party’s manifesto best
impresses you, be mindful of the fact that it will potentially be
in charge of Zimbabwe for the next five years. So if you have doubts,
think about the impact of those doubts on the country. The elections
are both about 31 July 2013 and also about 31 July 2018.
Take note of all that was omitted: It is also not always
what’s in the manifesto that is important. What might be missing/omitted
will perhaps be the most significant indicator of the party’s
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