There are many desirable elements in the MDC Alliance manifesto, dubbed Sustainable and Modernization Agenda for Real Transformation (SMART), which a Zanu-PF government will never implement. They are too many to unpack in one article so I will only deal with three, namely, army deployment, central intelligence operations and system of governance.
By Zachariah Misheck Mushawatu
Deployment of the army, as noted by SMART, is supposed to be controlled by the national assembly according to section 213 (4) of the constitution. The MDC Alliance, through SMART, makes an express commitment to uphold this constitutional requirement. Before going into why Zanu-PF has the potential to disregard it, I will explain why the provision is important, especially given our history.
Two things are widely viewed to have precipitated the economic crisis in Zimbabwe; doling out of gratuities to war veterans in 1997 and the DRC war in 1998. The DRC war, which was unbudgeted for, is said to have cost this county $1 million US dollars per day. There is no question that power to send soldiers into battle should not be left entirely to the President; Mugabe was allowed to willy-nilly send our troops to DRC and it cost us greatly.
Zanu-PF’s presidential candidate, Emmerson Mnangagwa, and Constantine Chiwenga were the major players in a military coup that did away with Robert Gabriel Mugabe in 2017. It is possible Chiwenga orchestrated the coup under Mnangagwa’s instructions. It is also possible Chiwenga and Mnangagwa were somewhat equal players or that Chiwenga was the mastermind. Whatever the case was, it is abundantly clear the duo have no respect for the constitution in as far as deployment of the army is concerned.
If Mnangagwa instructed Chiwenga to deploy the army he did so as an ordinary citizen since he had been fired from his post as Zimbabwe’s Vice-President by Mugabe. Do you think a person who deployed the army (assuming that he did) with zero authority whatsoever will listen to anything Parliament says on the matter when he is actually president and commander in chief?! As president, he will possess much more authority than he did when he deployed the army as an ordinary citizen.
While many countries, like the USA, use their central intelligence organization (CIA) to protect their country from foreign threats, Zanu-PF has used ours (CIO) to hound innocent citizens who express dissent against the government. SMART seeks to use central intelligence to only deal with external threats. This means as a citizen, you will no longer be afraid to express yourself in public because you fear CIOs; even if one is nearby, you simply won’t be his or her concern.
Finally, there is the issue of governance system. Zimbabwe has been operating under a hybrid system comprising of both presidential and parliamentary democracy elements: our President is both head of state and government (presidential system) and he or she has the power to dissolve Parliament (parliamentary system). By making it obligatory for the President to answer to Parliament once every month, SMART seeks to add another element – albeit a very important one – of parliamentary democracy to our hybrid system.
Zanu-PF has no intention of doing this whatsoever. But before dwelling on that, perhaps it is important to shed light on why such an element is imperative. One of the most important functions of Parliament is to play an oversight role over the executive; Parliament constantly questioning the head of government keeps the executive on its toes and ensures more transparency and accountability, something that has been lacking in our governance framework.
Zanu-PF has not indicated that it seeks to subject the President of the country to regular scrutiny by the National Assembly in its 2018 elections manifesto. Clearly, while the MDC Alliance seeks to demystify the office of the President and make it more accountable, Zanu-PF seeks to shield it from scrutiny in blatant perpetuation of Mugabe era politics.
In a nutshell, SMART is going to result in more responsible deployment of the army, more protection of citizens from foreign threats and more accountable leadership in the highest office. Your vote is a secret but it’s no secret that voting for MDC Alliance is the smart thing to do.