ZANU-PF poll strategy in crisis as indeginisation prove hard to sell to villagers

ZANU-PF’S election campaign stumbled after the ace in its campaign kit, the indigenisation and economic empowerment lobby — meant to force foreign-owned firms to cede at least 51 percent of their shareholding to blacks — proved to be a hard sell to rural voters.

This emerged as investigations indicated the party was now in a quandary with its anti-sanctions campaign meant to raise two million signatures to force the European Union, the United States and other Western countries to remove sanctions they say are targeted at President Robert Mugabe and members of his inner circle.

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ZANU-PF heaps all the blame for everything that has gone wrong in Zimbabwe on travel restrictions and financial embargoes imposed on its ruling elite. The party says the prohibitions are affecting everyone including the rural folk.

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Sources indicated that the Southern African Development Community (SADC), which is expected to get a petition from ZANU-PF for onward transmission to the international community against the sanctions, was seized with grave matters affecting Zimbabwe’s domestic politics, which they fear could destabilise the entire region.

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There were indications the ZANU-PF leadership had also become coy and therefore unwilling to engage SADC over the issue due to current efforts to fend off a fall-out triggered by a public rebuke of South African President Jacob Zuma over a scathing report he presented in Livingstone, Zambia, on March 31 that appeared to tackle ZANU-PF and its leadership over the political crisis in the country.

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The issue of sanctions as well as indigenisation were expected to play a key role in ZANU-PF’s election campaign ahead of scheduled but now unlikely-to-be-held-soon elections that SADC insists should be held after a conducive environment for polls has been created.

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A weekend consultative meeting by the party had revealed that there were serious doubts among party faithful that the empowerment campaign could help salvage the party’s dwindling support base, with fears emerging that the campaign could, in fact, alienate the party from its key rural strongholds.

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ZANU-PF launched its empowerment campaign at provincial level on Saturday, regurgitating the same theme it used in the controversial 2008 polls that it went on to lose to the combined Movement for Democratic Change formations.

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Sources said party members told ZANU-PF leaders during the consultations that the immediate priorities of rural dwellers were access to seed and fertiliser and that they were unconcerned with rhetoric emanating from the capital over expropriation of foreign-owned businesses.

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Besides, some party members had bluntly expressed their misgivings about the programme, indicating that they were aware it would only benefit the fat cats and their cronies. They gave the example of the land reforms as one such programme that benefited the elite within ZANU-PF.

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There were also doubts that the programme would help lift the standard of living for the ordinary people and meaningfully redress inequalities to create a fair society.

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ZANU-PF spokesperson, Rugare Gumbo, on Tuesday said there was confusion over the indigenisation issue, hence, the weekend meetings to correct misconceptions.

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“We launched the indigenisation policy on Saturday. There was confusion as people did not know what to do. We are explaining the benefits and how it can be applied and we will be moving to district level. We can’t say everyone would benefit, but the majority will benefit,” Gumbo said.

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When asked if they were progressing with their anti-sanctions campaign, Gumbo retorted: “You are asking wild questions.”

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Political analyst, Trevor Maisiri, said ZANU-PF’s undoing was its failure to balance generic indigenisation and broad-based economic empowerment that would resonate with the rural people, a key vote it cannot afford to lose if it wants to remain relevant in local politics.

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“In that regard, broad-based indigenisation therefore has a faster rate of return to a broader stakeholder base than generic indigenisation.

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“Given that the majority in the rural areas have very proximate and immediate needs, generic indigenisation will therefore not provide for their immediate needs as this is restricted to a few individuals and also takes long to give returns.

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“In that regard, the rural masses will view indigenisation as mere rhetoric without a traceable output that comes into their empty food bowls, which are currently and seriously empty,” said Maisiri.

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He said ZANU-PF’s campaign should have been preceded by “a moral values, integrity and national vision embedment”.

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“This would have created unity, focus, non-tolerance to corruption and a general ownership of national resources by the people and not by the few duplicitous elites,” Maisiri said.

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Maisiri said ZANU-PF’s anti-sanctions campaign was defective in that it failed to develop a clear and strategic process on how the eventual petition would be utilised in lobby against the sanctions.

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“It’s one thing to collect signatures through a petition and it’s another thing to be clearly strategic about the engagement process and the advocacy mechanism . . . However, on another note, ZANU-PF may gain mileage from the inferred foreign interference that many have pointed in the case of NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organisation) and the Western forces’ involvement in Libya.

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“If ZANU-PF is strategic enough, the party may project the sanctions as another extension of this now too-controversial interference in African affairs by Western powers.

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“Ultimately, the issue will all depend on whether ZANU-PF has the credibility for the whole continent and the world to be listened to,” said Maisiri. – Financial Gazette