By Dr Rino Zhuwarara
AS July 30 2018 approached, most people were taking stock of what the various political parties had been promising the voter during their election campaigns.
While it is true this time around competing parties were more, far more than has been the case since 1980, it is also true the real competition was between ZANU PF led by President Emmerson Mnangagwa and the MDC Alliance led by Nelson Chamisa – an alliance which has, again, like a mutating species of sorts, split from the original MDC-T led by that indefatigable lady, Thokozani Khupe.
Put differently, the personalities who dominated the public discourse were two, namely President Mnangagwa and Chamisa.
The President came across as a solid, steady and reassuring presence, always preaching the gospel of peace and unity.
The President has been very meticulous and specific in his promises, so specific that one can even cite figures of how much most of his promises will cost us as a nation.
For instance, we now know how much the two power stations to be built in Hwange will cost and how much the expansion of the Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport will cost.
We also know, roughly, how much the Command Agriculture Programme will cost this 2018, how the programme has been meticulously recalibrated to address the needs of various stakeholders such as cattle ranchers in Matabeleland South and Matabeleland North, those who would like to get into the fishing industry and so on. One can go on to mention specific programmes linked to the repairing of roads and resuscitation of specific mines and specific industries in various parts of the country.
The point here is, President Mnangagwa largely avoided making general and vague promises.
He was more concrete and as specific as he could get.
The overall impression was that of a presidential candidate who is inclined towards action rather than rhetoric.
It is as if he was saying: “Give me more time to reboot the economy and I will do ABCD.
It will also be easy for you as the electorate to follow up and audit my work in order to ascertain whether I am making progress or not.”
Even more interesting is the fact that all these specific promises were an integral part of a national vision which says – by 2030 Zimbabwe would have acquired a middle-income status.
The bias of President Mnangagwa and his party is more to economics, less politics, more development and less of polarising politics of the past.
What we observe here is someone who has introspected all along and come to realise that we need to rebalance our approach to politics and economics in order to make progress as a people.
It is this refreshing approach to politics and economics which has generated the kind of hope that we detect in most Zimbabweans today, this feeling that development-wise, we can catch up with the rest of the region and even surpass it in some respects, this feeling that at last, the country is moving in the right direction for the good of all.
Even the objectives of the re-engagement of Zimbabwe with the rest of the international community are deliberately designed to support the economic growth of the country.
All this is summarised in a simple but memorable statement: ‘Zimbabwe is open for business’.
The other candidate who has been dominating the national discourse is Chamisa, a young, inexperienced and somewhat mercurial personality!
We now know him as the ‘bullet train and spaghetti road man’!
He was the ‘bling bling’ candidate whose desire to develop his country was as ambitious and spectacular as it was unreal.
We wonder whether he had the patience to understand our down-to-earth problems, ordinary and numerous in a mundane way as they are.
We often asked ourselves: Once he gets into State House, would Chamisa know where to begin, more so when his bullet trains and spaghetti roads would run us into an economic ditch in no time?
Would his promises of building numerous rural airports to host numerous planes ferrying tomatoes daily to Mbare Musika redeem this country?
We kept asking ourselves: This Chamisa fellow; was he referring to real planes kana kuti indege dziya dzemashanga, dziya dzinotambiswa nevana vadiki?
Honestly, we had some genuine basic problems of understanding this young man.
The question which we kept suppressing in our minds was: Is he normal?
Perhaps one of the most obvious blunders the young man made was to pick up a fight with the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC).
More specifically, he made a series of demands which would amount to a unilateral rewriting of the electoral law, just a few days before the actual voting took place.
The question everyone was asking is: Where was this young man all along?
He spent five years in Parliament and forgot to change the law regardless of the fact that he is a lawyer.
Now he wanted it changed five days before the actual voting took place.
What kind of logic is this?
More seriously, he allowed some of his party members to demonise the chairperson of ZEC, Justice Priscilla Chigumba, calling her names and defaming her in the process because as chairperson of ZEC, she had not allowed him to design, print, store and distribute ballot papers.
It seems the fact that Justice Chigumba is a woman, is a problem for Chamisa.
Taken together with the fact that some members of his party attempted to kill Khupe in Buhera and the fact that Chamisa himself ‘threatened’ to donate his sister should President Mnangagwa win an election, it begins to appear as if Chamisa has a problem with women in general.
The level of male chauvinism displayed by his party is staggering.
It’s as if a whole era revolving around the emancipation of women has gone past and beyond Chamisa himself and some members of his party.
Wittingly or unwittingly, the MDC Alliance went out of its way to alienate the female voter and is none the wiser for it!
Again the question kept coming: Is this Chamisa fellow normal?
He even went to the extent of arguing an ‘X’ signifying a vote for a particular candidate, for example Chamisa himself, could be made to migrate autonomously and magic-like to place itself against President Mnangagwa’s name!
And we were all expected to swallow such electioneering absurdities as if voting this year was going to be characterised as church-based miracle exercise of sorts!
Why was he going to town insisting he should have been allowed by ZEC to usurp some of the powers of an independent constitutional body such as ZEC?
And the chap insists he is an advocate of some sort and that his concerns should be taken seriously!
More worrisome, Chamisa had gone further and threatened to unleash unprecedented levels of violence, 10 times more serious than the kind of violence he unleashed as a student leader.
That is, if his demands were not met and he failed to win the election itself.
To make good on his threats, he had undertaken some ‘press-up’ exercises for the good of the camera, just to remind all and sundry that he had a student history associated with violence.
However, when all is said and done, it is clear the difference between ZANU PF and MDC Alliance, between President Mnangagwa and Chamisa, is the difference between day and night.
The choice for the voter could not have been clearer!