Big and bold claims as Zimbabwe prepares for crucial election

08 May 2018 - 06:47
By James Thompson In Harare
Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa. File photo.
Image: Supplied Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa. File photo.

Big promises and bizarre allegations bordering on the near impossible are inherent as political parties try to out-smart each other as Zimbabwe heads towards the polls in about three months’ time.

In March‚ having taken over the reigns of power after the death of former MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai‚ the MDC Alliance's presidential candidate Nelson Chamisa had big shoes to fill.

Not a Tsvangirai equivalent in terms of charisma but with his own attributes‚ Chamisa at a rally in Bindura declared that he would introduce high speed bullet trains when voted into power.

"We want to have the best infrastructure in the next two to three years...we want to bring bullet trains that travel at 600km/hour from Bulawayo to Harare in 30-35 minutes‚" he said as the crowd cheered.

In his speech he poked fun at president Emmerson Mnangagwa's government as being backward.

However‚ the "bullet speech" as it has come to be known‚ earned him direct ridicule from Zanu-PF.

Vice President‚ Retired Army General Constantino Chiwenga‚ at Zanu-PF's election manifesto launch in Harare on Friday called Chamisa a "juvenile politician" and also declared that Zanu-PF's manifesto was the party's response to "dismantle juvenile politics".

"We shall have time to dismantle their little‚ make-believe dreams as we get down to real campaign work. Why reach Bulawayo in 40 minutes when Harare workers can’t reach Kuwadzana in five hours? What open cans of spaghetti when potholes straddle single lane roads in the city centre?

“Shouldn’t these starry-eyed juvenile politicians take us to Mabvuku after a hard day’s work before they put us on 'Apollo 11' [referring to bullet trains] to the moon?" Chiwenga said.

But Zanu-PF's $200-million campaign also came with its own jaw dropping promises.

The party‚ in its manifesto entitled "Unite‚ Fight Corruption‚ Develop‚ Re-engage‚ and Create jobs"‚ contains a claim that the party would build 1.5-million houses in just five years.

Political rivals and analysts took out their calculators and realised that the party claimed it would build an average of 822 houses per day for five years.

Independent candidate for the Mount Pleasant parliamentary seat‚ Advocate Fadzayi Mahere‚ went on to ask: "How will this be funded? Who'll build these houses? Will people have to buy them? With what money‚" before concluding that‚ "We are being lied to again."

In 2013‚ Zanu-PF through its Zimbabwe Agenda for Sustainable Socio-Economic Transformation (Zim-ASSET) - which according to the party was a "well-crafted document which brings out a sense of hope in the recovery of Zimbabwe's economy" - promised 2.2-million jobs.

However‚ three years into its 2013 mandate‚ Professor Jonathan Moyo‚ who was minister of Information at the time‚ blamed the party's failure to execute its promises to what he called lack of "policy space" because of the party's internal succession fight. At the time‚ Joice Mujuru was the enemy within.

This week‚ Chamisa took his campaign trail to the United Kingdom. While addressing a rally in Bedford he claimed that in 2013‚ Zanu PF-clandestinely used pre-marked ballot papers from China and Israel.

"Those ballot papers were pre-marked and pre-voted. They had the same serial numbers like the normal ballot papers. They are deployed to certain polling stations and constituencies so that when you vote the ink activates a layer that shows pre marked vote‚" he said‚ claiming to have been told by insiders.

Some of these things sound like fiction but there are people who really believe them since they are declared by politicians whose social standing in Zimbabwe is high.