By Tatenda Dewa
Opposition People’s Democratic Party (PDP) president, Tendai Biti, is crafting the Movement for Democratic (MDC) Alliance manifesto for the 2018 general elections, it has emerged.
Biti made the announcement late last week during an elections dialogue organised by Information for Development Trust (IDT), a non-profit organisation currently investigating electoral and public sector corruption, and Sapes Trust in Harare.
Biti is a key member of the alliance formed in August 2017 as a coalition bringing together the MDC-T party led by ailing Morgan Tsvangirai, PDP and six other smaller parties to fight the ruling Zanu PF in this year’s polls.
No dates have been set for the elections but the new administration of President Emmerson Mnangagwa that took over power from long-ruler Robert Mugabe last November after a military intervention has repeatedly promised they will be held in the next few months.
Biti said the next elections will be “a war” that will be “contested on ideas”.
“I am in the process of writing the MDC Alliance manifesto. It’s going to be a war, and a war which we are ready for,” said Biti.
The 2018 elections are the first without Mugabe at the helm since 1980 when Zimbabwe attained independence from minority colonial rule.
And Biti acknowledged the electoral campaign challenges that the post-Mugabe administration led by Mnangagwa has brought.
Since 2000, a year after the formation of the MDC, the ruling Zanu PF appealed to a populist land reform and black empowerment while railing against international restrictive measures during election time to win voter sympathy, but that has changed.
“They (Zanu PF) are coming into our terrain and talking democracy and reform. They are promising free and fair elections,” added Biti.
Anxious to regain international acceptance and legitimacy after the November coup when the army pushed out Mugabe and replaced him with Mnangagwa who the 93 year-old former president had fired as deputy in early November, the new administration has been preaching peace and courting foreign investment.
“This is the most important election. It is the election of our generation because if we get it wrong, the junta will be around with us for at least 20 years,” said Biti.
The former army general who led the coup, Constantino Chiwenga, has since been retired and appointed vice president while his erstwhile subordinate general, Sibusiso Moyo who announced the military takeover on State-run television is now in charge of the foreign and international trade portfolio.
Biti accused the new government of stuffing the public sector bureaucracy with soldiers, claiming that 60 percent of the National Prosecution Authority was linked to the military.
Biti said the opposition would hinge its election campaign on youths who form an estimated 69 percent of the population, according to the 2012 census findings.
In order to respond to the aspirations of this “Twitter generation”, Biti said, the opposition would make extensive use of social media and Information Technology Communication (ICT), which the alliance had recognised as a key driver in wooing voters.
He alleged that the Zanu PF government had employed at least 300 foreign nationals, mostly from Iran, to man social media platforms on behalf of the new government and ruling party ahead of the elections.
The alliance, according to Biti, will capitalise on the prevailing economic crisis characterised by a liquidity crunch and high unemployment to decampaign Zanu PF.
He said the economy had tanked after the army deployed armoured tanks to remove Mugabe late last year while month-on-month inflation had steeply risen to 80 percent.
“It is pointless to go to this election without dialogue and discussion around the military,” he said, adding that there was need to debate how to stop further military coups from occurring in the future.
The new dispensation has reportedly deployed soldiers to intimidate voters in rural constituencies and high ranking officials in Zanu PF and government have already publicly warned that the military will be unleashed on citizens if the party loses.
In 2008, the army led a systematic violent campaign against opposition supporters during a run-off election after Tsvangirai beat Mugabe in the first round in March of the same year.
He urged the generals to publicly announce their readiness to abide by the constitution and accept the outcome of this year’s elections.
In early 2000, just before the presidential poll pitting Mugabe and Tsvangirai, the generals called a press conference where they announced they would never salute a president without war credentials, a move widely seen as a threat to stage a coup if the opposition leader won. Nehanda Radio