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Tsvangirai Sets Out His Stall

MDC leader’s plans for taking the country forward win the backing of experts.
By Thompson Bveni
Opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai has unveiled lofty ambitions for Zimbabwe if he prevails in the June 27 presidential run-off against President Robert Mugabe.

Roundly criticised in the past as lacking vision, Tsvangirai won plaudits this week from analysts critiquing policies spelled out during his state of the nation address on May 29.

The leader of the Movement for Democratic Change, MDC, who outpolled Mugabe in the first round on March 29, envisages implementing a wide range of social, political and economic policies.

Included in his plans for Zimbabwe are a new constitution; reform of the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe; both supply-side and demand-driven interventions to address the country’s hyper-inflation; the repeal of repressive legislation; and the establishment of a truth and justice commission with the power to pay reparations to victims of state-sponsored violence.

“It is my belief that [Tsvangirai’s] policies are well-thought out and the correct ones to take the country out of the wilderness,” said John Robertson, a Harare-based economist. “He has the ear of the international donor community. He will get the assistance he needs to implement the clear policies that he has continued to espouse.”

The rejuvenation of the battered economy is a priority. Describing it as the most dysfunctional in the world, Tsvangirai said the MDC government was determined to effectively address the hyperinflation bequeathed to the country by Mugabe. The MDC would use a combination of demand and supply-side interventions.

He said he would work tirelessly to ensure that macroeconomic stability was accompanied by an immediate supply-side response, both as a way to sustain the former and to raise industrial capacity and productivity levels and create sustainable jobs.

On the demand side, he has said that the country’s hyperinflation would only be tamed if government’s unrestrained appetite for resources were also curbed.

To entrench a culture of fiscal discipline, the MDC intends to introduce complementary institutional measures, starting with the reform of the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe. The bank has been accused of bankrolling Mugabe’s presidential campaign. An MDC government, he said, would make the bank independent of the executive but accountable to parliament. Its mandate would also be streamlined to focus on the maintenance of price stability, monetary policy, and bank supervision.

Another institutional measure would involve tightening the accountability of public enterprises. To ensure that they do not perpetually remain a drain on the government budget, the MDC intends to house them in a new ministry of public enterprises, which would set clear performance targets and criteria for which all public enterprises would be held accountable.

“We have lofty ambitions for our economy. The Zimbabwean economy is an enclave economy that is a fraction of its potential size. Income per capita is unacceptably low and, due to ZANU-PF’s cronyism and corruption, income distribution, which was also quite uneven, is now at unconscionable levels. ZANU-PF’s affinity for command economics made control the preferred tool for government intervention in the economy over the last three decades,” said Tsvangirai.

An MDC government would create an alternative people-centred economy and the new parliament would move quickly to pass legislation to establish an economic development council.

A new, people-driven constitution, to be introduced within 18 months of the formation of an MDC government, is also high on his agenda. Lovemore Madhuku, the chairman of the National Constitutional Assembly, said Tsvangirai’s espousal of a new constitution made him a good candidate to be lead the republic.

“This is what we have been calling for. It is sweet news to our ears. We maintained all along that all the problems of this country stem from a bad constitution, the lack of a democratic people-driven constitution,” said Madhuku.

“Apart from the issue of a people-driven constitution, other policies that he says he will pursue when in government after the elections resonate with what the generality of Zimbabweans want. He might not be the best that we have, but he is a better president than Mugabe.”

Robertson agreed that the policies put Tsvangirai in good stead to steer the Zimbabwean ship out of troubled waters. “Morgan will be acceptable to the international community. Mugabe will not. Morgan’s policies and intentions are acceptable, judging from what we have deciphered from what he has been saying about the way forward for the country,” he said.

Tsvangirai, a veteran trade unionist, would establish a truth and justice commission that would look not only at human rights abuses but also at the Mugabe regime’s corruption, looting and asset-stripping.

To address the “most egregious of the regime’s abuses”, the new parliament, in which the MDC has a majority, intends to pass legislation to deal with compensation and reparations for the victims of Gukurahundi and Murambatsvina. Both military campaigns were launched to shut down opposition to the rule of ZANU-PF. During Gukurahundi, beginning in the early 1980s, up to 20,000 people in Matabeleland and the Midlands were killed by government forces for their perceived loyalty to Joshua Nkomo and his ZAPU party. Murambatsvina, begun in 2005, was designed to drive MDC supporters out of the urban areas; close to 2.5 million people were displaced.

“Truth alone is not enough. Our people must be compensated,” said Tsvangirai in his 13-page state of the nation address.

The de-politicisation of the work of state security agents and other national institutions, including the Central Intelligence Organisation, CIO, is also part of his plan.

“It is not the intention of MDC to persecute or victimise any peaceful member of the uniformed services, whether officers or junior members,” he said. “This assurance has been explained in the MDC policy paper statement to the uniformed forces. But let me say to all very clearly – the violence must stop now. There will be no tolerance or amnesty for those who continue to injure, rape, and murder our citizens. We consider these criminal acts, not political acts. Criminal acts will be prosecuted.”

Tsvangirai said one of the first acts of parliament will be to repeal repressive legislation, including the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act, Aippa, used to control the media; the Public Order and Security Act, Posa; the Broadcasting Services Act, the Official Secrets Act, and some aspects of the criminal code, laws the MDC leader argues were crafted by Mugabe merely to sustain his power.

In tackling the emotive land issue once and for all, Tsvangirai said his government would create a land commission, an independent and professional policy organ that will recommend to parliament how the land question should be finally resolved.

Once the land commission had completed its work, he said his government expected the land question to be completely depoliticised by the commission’s professional input, making it possible to rely on the market mechanism to determine the ownership of land in the long term.

“We intend to banish the colonial system of separate land tenure systems for commercial and communal agriculture. However, we realise the need for creativity and flexibility as we move from the current system to the universally applicable one for all farmers,” he said.

To ensure the productive use of land and to discourage speculative land holding, his government would institute a progressive land tax. The revenue generated from that tax would be applied to the provision of infrastructure and other social services in that community.

Turning to restoration of basic services, which have collapsed under Mugabe’s regime, he envisages doling out free anti-retrovirals, offering affordable education, and rehabilitating hospitals.

“Of urgent importance, nobody in our country should ever go hungry again. Innovative and completely depoliticised food delivery mechanisms are urgently required whilst we get our agricultural production up and running again,” he said.

On the international front, he said an MDC government was ready to return Zimbabwe to the family of democratic nations, including the Commonwealth, from which Mugabe personally withdrew the country in 2003. Analysts say Mugabe’s scorched earth policies have cost Zimbabwe international finance and friends to take the country forward, especially in the past eight years.

Thompson Bveni is the pseudonym of an IWPR journalist in Zimbabwe.

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