Develop Me: Tapiwa Gomo

LAST week I watched a video of Patrick Chinamasa chanting the ED-pfee slogan pitching the Mnangagwa presidential candidacy for the 2023 elections. For some, kicking off elections campaign for 2023 this year might seem too early considering the challenges that the current government is grappling with.

In fact, it is a hard-sell to campaign for a leadership that is yet to prove itself to those who voted for them in the last election. But then again, performance and delivery are not Zanu PF’s strongest points, neither are they their selling points, nor will they care about them. They have never relied on them to win elections as they have used other means to secure and retain power.

It might be necessary to situate Chinamasa’s campaign show within the context where Zanu PF did the unthinkable this time around. They pruned off the old guard and dumped them at the party headquarters where they have nothing much to do except to occupy themselves by visiting various areas and keeping their voters engaged. Where the MDC Alliance is reportedly failing to pay its staff, Zanu PF now has that added luxury of deploying the old guard to the trenches, while those in government focus on the business of the day. They have been generous in re-engaging their prodigal children back into their camp to minimise unnecessary political noise.

Only time will tell if this strategy will work given the several factors at play. Zimbabweans have been unhappier since the new-yet-old order took over power.
The economy is far from recovering and the prices of goods and services continue to rise in an economic environment characterised by unpredictability. The discord between government policies and business community behaviour demonstrates a weakened leadership that has run out of ideas and a lack of cohesion between the two.

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The recent bread price hikes illustrate this point where the government claims to be unaware and yet they have nothing to say about this development. It shows they are either aware of the real economic factors driving the prices upwards or they are simply captured to the extent of being unable to act on errant behaviour. Whatever the case may be, bread is a vital part of our diet.

Policy failures that affect the availability and affordability of bread have direct influence on the opinions of urban voters. Bread is one of the symbols of the national and household economy. Most of the activities at individual and household level are somehow linked to bread. It should not be tampered with because its absence from homes is one of the indicators of government failure. It would be interesting to see how the ruling party will turn around the economy before 2023.

The voting demographics are, meanwhile, no longer in favour of the ruling party. The young population, who constitute the majority, are tired of failed promises and the older generation that followed the party religiously peeled off with former President Robert Mugabe’s departure from office. In addition, the number of voters born after the beginning of the collapse of the economy in 1999 will be much higher than those who have seen a better Zimbabwe between 1980 and 1999. Already in the 2018 final voters’ roll, compiled by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission, young people between the ages of 18 and 22 made up the highest number of registered voters. And the numbers will continue to grow.

This age group does not know a better Zimbabwe. They have only been told that once upon a time, there was a Zimbabwe that could feed itself, that had plenty of jobs and opportunities for its people, a country where access to services, albeit limited, was guaranteed in urban areas. They have heard that Zimbabwe was once a country of hope and dreams and all that went down the drain because of the same people in power today. They now know that Zanu PF is a wingless bird, that will never fly even though it keeps promising a take-off in every election.

They are also aware that the state of the economy is not a natural phenomenon, but human made. They have endured the pain of watching their parents selling household items to send them to school and university only to be confronted by high unemployment rates, a barren economy and the dead end to fulfilling their dreams under the current leadership.

They are also aware of the potential this country holds. They know that the people in power today punctured this economy and have scared both traditional and potential investors to help mend it. They will not need to be reminded that a future with the same people in power today will be doomed. And 2023 will be their best chance to claim their country back and afford themselves the opportunity to rebuild it.

Tapiwa Gomo is a development consultant based in Pretoria, South Africa