National University of Science and Technology lecturer and defeated independent candidate in the 1990 general elections, Temba Dlodlo, has called for the creation of a strong opposition party to successfully challenge ZANU-PF which he said was determined to stay in power “forever” despite its dismal performance in the past 12 years.
He even suggested that such a party should allow Zimbabwe to join the Southern African Customs Union -which presently comprises Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia, Swaziland and South Africa- so that it can have a bigger market for its products and also have access to South African products and technology.
“After all, the National Party has apologised to the people of South Africa for the suffering it caused due to apartheid,” he said. “The RF (Rhodesian Front) never made such an apology for the atrocities they committed neither has ZANU-PF apologised for the attempted liquidation of the Ndebele people using North Korean know-how”.
Dlodlo, a member of the controversial Bulawayo-based Open Forum, said as far as he was concerned the people of Zimbabwe could not afford to wait until the 1995 general elections for a change of government as this would only mean increased suffering for the people.
The 12 year-old rule of ZANU-PF, he said, was characterised by a high degree of mismanagement of the economy as evidenced by rising unemployment which resulted in the exodus of young and skilled people to neighbouring countries.
There was also a galloping inflation rate that resulted in falling standards of living and economic hardships for the poor. High taxation rates “partly to finance ZANU-PF projects” were scaring off investors and skilled manpower who left the country. Another factor was high government expenditure due to a large cabinet, the presence of governors, deputy ministers, two vice presidents and unnecessary ministries.
To effect this change, Dlodlo said, the President could sack incompetent ministers and replace them with competent people from within and without his party. He was constitutionally allowed to do this and these people could steer the country until the next general elections in 1995. This option was less dramatic and would ensure continuity, he said.
The other option was to have early general elections which he said could only be held next year at the earliest.
Dlodlo, however, said the present fragmented opposition political parties could not successfully challenge ZANU-PF. It was therefore necessary to create a strong opposition party or perhaps a strong coalition of opposition parties.
The new party, he said, had to have a clear programme which should include the introduction of tax incentives to attract local and foreign investors so as to create more jobs and stop the exodus of Zimbabwe’s youths to neighbouring countries.
The new party should selectively privatise some of the parastatals and reduce income tax to not more than 20 per cent of incomes. It should also reduce sales tax on industrial, agricultural and mining equipment and introduce a land tax to encourage those with underutilised land to sell it.
The new party should also reduce government expenditure by reducing the size of the bureaucracy. It should abolish such unnecessary ministries like Political Affairs, Scholarships, etc. It should reduce the number of vice-Presidents to one and abolish positions of senior and deputy minister.
“There is absolutely no difference between a senior minister and a minister except that the senior minister is paid a senior salary. As for deputy minister he does not have anything at all to do as he cannot even act in the absence of the minister,” Dlodlo said.
He also said the new party should seriously consider the devolution of powers from central government to the provinces and should have elected executive governors “not party puppets like the present ones”.
“They should be answerable to the people,” he said. “This is not a call for the creation of independent states but merely a call for the distribution of political power to the people at provincial level.”
“The governor should collect taxes and have a budget for the province. He decides on and implements development programmes without having to refer to Harare. A case in point is the water problem which the Matebeleland Zambezi Water Project is attending to.
Central government will have Defence, Foreign Affairs, National Security, Higher Education, Transport and Communications, Justice, Immigration and Tourism, he said.
Dlodlo emphasised that the new party should not be allowed to be led by a one-man dictatorship nor a one-man one-woman dictatorship.
“Under such a leadership (one-man dictatorship), nepotism and tribalism will flourish. Just look at the ZANU-PF government appointments over the past 12 years. A lot of these were not done on merit but on tribal grounds. Look at the staff at most of our foreign missions, top civil servants and even staff at the President’s office.
“Look at the cabinet for instance: only two ministries each come from Masvingo, Midlands and Matebeleland North. There is none from Matebeleland South. In 12 years Matebeleland South has not produced anyone suitable to be a cabinet minister. There are six from Manicaland and the rest are from Mashonaland. No wonder the President is afraid of trimming the cabinet because he will have to look at Mashonaland and must in fact appoint at least one from Mat South,” Dlodlo said.
He, however, warned that effecting change would not be easy. People had to demand for this change.
“You will be up against a strong ZANU-PF determined to stay in power “forever” as they have repeatedly said. However, do not believe their “forever” as reality it’s fantasy. ZANU-PF leaders fantasize a lot about their abilities. They think highly of themselves and their party and leader. Hence the belief that ZANU-PF will rule “forever”.
“To illustrate this some MPs have called their leader all sorts of biblical names. One ZANU-PF leader thinks he can rewrite the Bible and yet another thought he could lead the world as UN secretary general -a rich imagination they have indeed,” Dlodlo said.