HARARE – State broadcaster, the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC), broke with tradition yesterday when it beamed live the MDC Alliance’s 2018 election manifesto launch.
It was a rare broadcast in a country where television has been tightly controlled by the State, which has previously shut out the opposition from the small screen, unless if it is being reported on negatively.
It has been a week of surprises for the country’s biggest opposition party which, on Monday, was granted permission by the police to demonstrate in the streets of Harare.
Yesterday, ZBC added to the incredulity by allowing its viewers to watch the historic broadcast right from the comforts of their homes.
The parastatal, some of whose reporters had the audacity to participate in the just-ended Zanu PF primary polls held last month, has routinely been accused of being a Zanu PF mouthpiece.
But with President Emmerson Mnangagwa desperate to hold free and fair elections on July 30, in order to gain legitimacy after assuming power through a soft coup last November, the Zanu PF leader has been under increasing pressure to demonstrate his sincerity by loosening his grip on State apparatus to earn his stripes as a democrat.
And as several regional and international pre-election observation missions troop into the country to assess the situation, Mnangagwa has been under pressure to walk the talk.
Currently, the European Union, the Commonwealth, the Southern African Development Community, the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa and the International Republican Institute and the National Democratic Institute (both from the United States), are among the organisations that have dispatched their missions to Zimbabwe ahead of the polls.
While ZBC might have bent backwards yesterday to cover the MDC Alliance manifesto launch, this remains a token when compared to the avalanche of positive publicity dedicated towards Zanu PF activities, especially those involving Mnangagwa and his wife, Auxillia.
In the State-controlled print media, the opposition is only afforded coverage if there is material denigrating it.
This is despite the existence of election guidelines that obligate the public media to ensure all candidates are granted free and full access to the public media, and equal time and coverage.
Yesterday, several MDC Alliance leaders, among them Nelson Chamisa, Tendai Biti, Tapiwa Mashakada, Paurina Mpariwa and Maureen Kademaunga addressed supporters and officials who turned up for the manifesto launch under the theme “Behold the New, Change that Delivers”.
In its manifesto, the MDC Alliance is pledging to deal with what it calls Zanu PF’s “economic mischief”‚ should its candidate‚ Chamisa‚ win.
Presenting the party’s Sustainable and Modern Agenda for Real Transformation (Smart) document‚ former Finance minister Biti said they would seek to join the Rand Monetary Union as a stopgap measure to address the country’s economic woes.
Currently the rand is being used under a basket of currencies but pricing of goods and services is in United States dollars.
“We seek to strengthen the multicurrency regime while we work towards joining the rand union and scrapping the bond notes totally‚“ said Biti.
Under Robert Mugabe‚ the government went against advice from the business community to join the rand union‚ fearing losing control of the country’s monetary policy and partly because‚ at the time‚ Zimbabwe did not have a currency of its own‚ having parked the Zimbabwean dollar in 2008 after record hyperinflation.
In May, deputy Finance minister Terence Mukupe told journalists that part of Zimbabwe’s turnaround should involve adopting the rand as a base currency.
For the MDC Alliance‚ a quick fix to the economy is top priority.
In its manifesto the party claims the economy will grow to $100 billion by 2029.
By the end of Chamisa’s first term in 2023‚ the gross domestic product could be $46 billion.
Chamisa said the party will create a $100 billion economy anchored on mining, agriculture, tourism “and mainstreaming vending and buoying the entrepreneurial spirit”.
He said he sought to send Mnangagwa into retirement because he was not good for the country.
“I represent that new‚ that brand new. The best change is speaking to you now‚“ he said. — additional reporting by Business Day