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Thursday, 7 August 2008

The MDC Manifesto (2008)

Reading through Noel Tucker's article revealed the link to the MDC Manifesto. I couldn't previously get my hands on it, so I thought others might be interested, in case they missed it. It would be interesting to see how this matches the pending power sharing agreement, which outline some details on land policy and other areas.

Read this document on Scribd: MDC Manifesto (2008)


  1. I'm writing this review of the MDC's 2008 manifesto with the caveat that they are coming to power on a wave of lies. Even today, Morgan Tsvangirai has been called out by Tony Leon, about his lying about not receiving funds from the Democratic Alliance in South Africa. So anything they say in their manifesto is likely either garbage or hidden in such vague language that it could mean anything. Most manifestos are short on knot tying and long on doing good deeds. With those caveats, here goes...


    * The right to work
    * The right to a decent education
    * The right to choice of employment and equal
    opportunity of promotion, job security and benefits
    * The right to equal pay for equal work
    * The right to respect

    That is so general that it could mean anything. What does 'The Right To Respect' mean? Interestingly, they too include 'The Right To Work', but what they mean with that is of course up to them to fill in.


    * Stabilize the national economy, restore macro-economic fundamentals and initiate the process of economic recovery

    Good deeds indeed.

    * Build a strong economy, using market principles with strong redistributive characteristics and carefully targeted state-intervention policies to promote economic and social justice

    Here we go, the prelude to their ode to neoliberalism.

    * Institue a broad-based system of safety nets to ensure that, when the reform programme is under way, the poor and marginalized are not unduly affected that their basic needs are met in full.

    Interesting, but in the absence of taxation from the mines or industry, it is hard to imagine they can afford to pay for it.

    * Create a responsive and efficient state that will pursue economic and social justice while at the same time creating an environment conducive to rapid economic growth and development.

    More good deeds.

    * Adopt and implement policies that will address economic disparities with the objective of substantially reducing poverty levels in all sectors of society.

    Something no one could disagree with, but also something that is hard to reconcile with neoliberalism. And completely contradictive of the hard times they predict farther down the manifesto.

    * Restore health and education systems so that all Zimbabweans can have access to the basic services required for life and work

    Universal healthcare and education is of course a good thing, but one that also has to be budgeted for. They contradict the idea of austerity, and the usual IMF demand that there are cuts in education and healthcare budgets.

    * Ensure that all Zimbabweans are adequately housed on a 'whole family' basis, have access to clean water, and have security of their persons and assets.

    So, we have universal healthcare, universal education, and now all Zimbabweans will be well housed? Excellent goals I completely agree with, but it contradicts IMF prescriptions, free market theory and privatisation, which leads to short term (even long term) job losses.

    The MDC does not think that these ambitious goals can be achieved easily or quickly, and recognizes that any stabilization and recovery programme will inevitably involve both sacrifice and hardship.

    As they have anywhere else where ESAP was introduced, including in Zimbabwe, including in Zambia.

    What I would be worrying about is not whether these goals were achieved easily and quickly, but whether they can be budgeted for without massively taxing business. Otherwise, where will the money come from? Borrowing - which is the usual neoliberal government response?

    But it also hopes that, once a new legitimate, democratic government i selected that exhibits its intention to restore human and political rights, economic fundamentals and the rule of law, the international community will assist with this programme initially. The MDC does not, in the long term, want to see the economy dependent on aid.

    Then it must tax the corporations. Which would be un-neoliberal, and not recommended by the IMF, which always encourages country dependency on the West by directing them toward borrowing.

    I don't trust the MDC not to do just that - make Zimbabwe eternally dependent on the West through debt.


    On the assumption that the necessary political conditions have been put in place for a programme of stabilization and recovery, the macro-economic fundamentals are not difficult to identify. In fact, one of the features of global experience in the past decade has been the evolution of a consensus as to those policies that must be inforce to enable low inflation, strong growth and stability.

    Which is completely incorrect. In fact, when you look at South America, and throughout the world, is that the only evolving consensus is that independent countries want to have nothing to do with neoliberalism or the IMF.

    In a world where Sandinista Daniel Ortega has been re-elected democratically, there is no growing consensus that neoliberalism with it's free markets and privatisation is a good thing. Hugo Chavez and Evo Mendes are taking their countries away from neoliberal rule by even nationalizing core industries and developing their people and economies by directing money from those industries into infrastructure, education, land reform and all things the westernized elites considered to be a threat to their privileged positions.

    With the economic fundamentals so far out of kilter with this reality,

    The farther the better. Also, nowhere in this document is any mention made of the sanctions that are in place against Zimbabwe, and that are responsible for hyperinflation.

    it is not going to be easy or painless to bring them under control.

    So what will it be? Universal healthcare, education and housing, or hardships and economic pain?

    Oh I forgot, when all the state companies have been privatized, all will be well, and 'the market will provide'. Just as it has in Zambia.

    The budget deficit in the past three years has exceeded half of GDP. The Reserve Bank has been in engaged in quasi-fiscal activities that have completely distorted fiscal management and budgetary controls. Parastatals such as the GMB have been operating with deficits that have had a significant impact on the fiscus and national debt. Other parastatals have been trading with operating losses that have rendered them technically insolvent. Funds can be raised by SELLING parastatals and other government-owned businesses as advantageously as possible to private-sector concers (LON-ZIM) with impeccable corporate governance credentials.

    I'm sure they have, but I see no mentioning of the effects of sanctions on the economy, or parastatal performance.

    Distortions in exchange-rate and interest-rate management have been equally dramatic. Maintaining official exchange rates that are less than one per cent of the real market rates, and interest ratest hat are a fraction of the inflation rate, are simply not sustainable policies.

    The MDC will therefore initiate a six-month stabilization programme immediately upon taking over the reins of government. This will take the form of re-establishing the correct economic and administrative relationship between the Ministry of Finance and the Reserve Bank. New leadership in the form of a new Minister of Finance and Governance of the Reserve Bank will be appointed, and a technical-assistance team of experienced international specialists brought in to assist both the Minsitry and the Bank with the programme.

    So they want to make use of a team of 'experienced international specialists'. They don't identify who that would be, so I would have to guess that they would be privatisation artists from the IMF.

    A complete restructuring of government is planned. The MDC will reduce the number of ministries to fifteen.

    Which would be good in the absence of neoliberal theory. Having fewer ministries which in itself is a agood thing, must be offset by a budgetary shift toward the provision of services like healthcare, education and public utilities to the public. Which I would provide by a massive increase in the amount of money spent at the local government level.

    However, in the context of neoliberal theory, it means that government services will become unavailable and because magically, 'the market will provide'. And much of neoliberalism has a utopian side to it because of this magical thinking about what the market can and will do.

    The market will not just provide because there is a need for education and healthcare. The market can only provide in where short term profits are higher than short term costs. So unless millions of Zimbabweans can affort education and healhtcare, running water and other services right now, the market is not going to provide it.

    Also, such an approach has within it the creation of a two-tier society, of those who can afford to pay, and those who cannot, which directly undermines the 'universality' of the provision of those services.

    In addition, the structure of government will be revised to streamline its institutions and functions so as to ensure that all State expenditure is justified and managed efficiently.

    But that requires oversight and capacity building. How are they going to budget for that? Again, they have two choices - taxation or borrowing. Consider they will bend over backward to make things easy for business, they would only be able to do that with borrowing.

    A proposed National Social and Economic Council will be established immediately, together with ancillary organs such as a Labour Market Commission. This will ensure that an MDC government consults stakeholders from the very beginning. Such consultation will be continuous.

    Which would be a good thing, but ultimately the ability to decide would rest with the MDC.

    The goal of the stabilization programme will be to bring inflation down to treble-digit figures very quickly, and to double-digit figures as soon as possible, and to restore confidence in interest-rate policy. Both will be anchored on market principles and unified. The present system of multiple-interest and exchange rates will be eliminated immediately.

    Even a double digit inflation rate would mean that interest rates will not get below double digits either. Which means that even the few companies that are eligible to borrow because they have assets, could only borrow small amounts of money because interest rates would remain prohibitive.

    An MDC government will pay close attention to the sequencing of the reforms required to restore stability to financial markets and to bring inflation under control. To this end the reform process will be front-ended with significant reforms taking place immediately the new administration takes charge. This will involvee measures outlined below.

    And then it gets rather technical. If anyone with expertise in banking wants to comment, feel free.


    The Reserve Bank will be made fully autonomous and tasked with managing inflation; exchange rate stability will follow from this. Its role will be restricted to interest-rate management and exchange-rate policy as well as the supervision of the commercial banking system. It will immediately deal with:

    * The alignment of all foreign-exchange systems into a single, market-driven system of exchange rates, reflecting open-market values and allowing the Reserve Bank to start building up foreign-exchange reserves.

    * The gradual adjustment of interest rates until convergence takes place between inflation rates and interest rate returns can be re-established. The MDC recognizes that this will impact on the over-borrowed companies and, as it does not want to see businesses close, will consider a rescue package where the resultant equity is used in a responsible manner.

    * The cessation of all the Bank's quasi-fiscal activities, forcing government to finance its activities in a normal manner from tax and other revenues receipts and by borrowing on the market.

    * The adoption of strict money-supply limits.

    To land reform:



    The Commitment of the MDC

    While respecting the historic, constitutional and legal rights of commercial farmers, the MDC will not return to the pre-2000 land-ownership patterns,

    Those are mutually contradictory. Either you respect land reform as it exists, or you return to the old white supremacist land ownership patterns.

    neither will it condone the inequitable and aberrant land distribution that has resulted from ZANU(PF)'s 'fast-track land reform' process.

    In other words, they are going to mess around with land redistribution.

    If they start turning hundreds of thousands of people off the land, there will be a civil war that turn the present into the good old days.

    The MDC has always supported redressing the historical imbalance in the distribution of land,

    Which doesn't mean anything, because the 'Willing Buyer, Willing Seller' land reform programme also 'redressed the historical imbalance', but it did so in an excruciatingly slow and irrelevant manner. Which is why it eventually broke down and was replaced by the 'Fast Track' programme.

    but is unreseredly committed to bring Zimbabwe's land crisis to closure through an inclusive, participatory and professional process that seeks to achieve the equitable, transparant, just and efficient distribution of land.

    So they want to have land reform, but somehow not like the present land reform.

    The MDC will insist that a sustainable land-reform and settlement programme alleviates poverty without compromising national agricultural production.

    Any land reform program will affect agricultural production a little in the short run.

    However, all that is moot, because land has already been redistributed. The MDC claim that they disagree with it, because it was somehow done imperfectly only goes to cover up the fact that they want their land back. Which would be the only reason why receive massive support from the white farmers to begin with.

    The MDC's land-reform programme will be based on need and ability,

    Ability - so there would be some kind of 'test' to see if the farmer is 'qualified'?

    and will revitalize the economy, empower farmers, including women,

    Including women - always good to get international support...

    enable the social recovery of farming communities, and facilitate sustained productivity and growth in agricultural production.

    More good deeds.

    However, no details about how they intend to roll back land reform as was carried out under the present government. Or who will have land taken from them under their turning back of land reform.

    Land Tenure

    Land will be held under one law for all the existing forms of ownership - private, state and communal. Such law will be fully expressed in the new constitution in order to give investors confidence and security.

    How kind of them to consider the interest of 'investors' with regard to land tenure and reform.

    The MDC will ensure that there is comprehensive land legislation in place that allows both for the private ownership of land secured through title deeds and for community ownership of land, which may be expressed in various forms, including registered rights. Married women will be allowed to hold title deeds in their own right.

    How about unmarried women?

    The MDC believes that the communal system should not be expected to be a permanent feature of land tenure in the long term.

    Interesting. If someone wants to defend communal land ownership, feel free. I wonder how people in the rural areas feel about this.

    The new system of land tenure will be progressively transformed so as to break the dual economy that exists in Zimbabwe. In the first instance the MDC will maintain freehold tenure where it exists, and offer resettlement and small-scale farmers long-term leases with options to secure title through purchase.

    If they can afford it. Or want to borrow to buy the land they already own, instead of borrow to buy machinery or make improvements to their farms.

    All this buying of land is superfluous after redistribution. It is a waste of money and time.

    Resettlement schemes operating with communal grazing will be given the option of being replanned and demarcated into individual, self-contained family farms.

    That would be interesting if I trusted these individuals to actually do that the right way.

    Also, again, that will cost a lot of money, which won't come from 'investment'. Not without giving up a lot or all of the profits.

    In the communal areas, rights over land and resources will pass from the State to village or ward assemblies. In villages, land may be surveyed and household issued with land registration certificates for residential and arable land. All such reforms will be planned and executed by the Land Commission with the participation and consent of local farmers and leaders.

    Not necessarily a bad idea, but again it would be interesting to see the costs and budget for that exercise.

    Principles of Land Reform

    The MDC's land reform programme is based on the following principles:

    * The historical imbalance in the pattern of land distribution must be addressed urgently in a fair, lawful and transparant manner in order to bring Zimbabwe's land question to closure.

    Except it has already been concluded. And it has already been addressed, urgently. I would already consider the issue closed.

    * The State has the authority to acquire land in the interest of the public good and to resolve Zimbabwe's land crisis by distributing land on the basis of need and ability.

    Need is of course obvious, but ability seems a rather dubious criterion.

    * Constitutionality and the rule of law are the basis on which a democratic government will resolve the land crisis. Accordingly, citizens share the fundamental right to the protection of their person and property and to be selected for settlement regardless of gender, race, ethnic origin, religion or political opinions.

    The only way the MDC would not consider land redistribution as settled, is if they want to push people of their land again.

    They have not accepted the land reform program as it exists, and the only alternative seems to be turning back land reform.


    I think their manifesto is contradictory. On the one hand they predict hardships (which will come from structural adjustment, privatisation and the job losses which will follow the closure of much of government), but they also have these high cost goals of universal education, healthcare and home ownership. At the same time, they will tax businesses way too little to pay for any of this, leaving the only option government borrowing.

    Also, they keep talking about land being redistributed on the basis of 'need and ability', but they do not talk about historic, pre-1900 right and ownership. Other than the 'communal areas' which are the old Native Reserves, they do not seem to recognize the inherent right of Africans in the areas they were forced out of during colonialism and UDI. What I find telling is that they do not say anything about expanding infrastructure in the rural areas and the new farms, but talk a lot about how land redistribution is unfair.

    They seem extremely deluded about the benefits of neoliberalism (privatisation, free markets, small to no government), which they state are universally accepted when they are not. In fact, if they used Zambia as an example of the results of neoliberalism, they would see a currency which has slipped from K113/$ in 1991 to K4800/$ in 2006; the loss of income from the mines; and 70% of the population living under $1,-/day. They missed the destruction of the manufacturing industry through opening up the markets. They also missed that these are the effects of neoliberal economics anywhere in the world, from Russia to Chile. In short, their belief in neoliberalism as well as a belief that there is a consensus on it's benefits is bizarre and out of touch, at best. At worst, they are lying, and simply want to see Zimbabwe revert to western influence, as do the IMF and World Bank. With their track record of being ethically challenged where it comes to telling the truth, and with no one in their right mind believing that there is a consensus on the benefits of neoliberalism, I think they are liars.

    I think that at some time during the Rhodesian years, they have come accustomed to associating bad economic times with the liberation movement, and feel a need to shield themselves from any association with economic hardship. Maybe that is why they lie about the disastrous effect of sanctions on the economy, to the point of lying about the existence of sanctions themselves. In this manifesto, they are very short in their description of the hardships that are to follow the massive job losses, and do not expand at all how or in what timeframe those job losses will be compensated for by the private sector. If Zambia and other 'privatised' economies around the world are anything to go by, those jobs will in fact never materialize.

  2. This part of the manifesto (i have yet to read the 100+ pages myself) is not as contradictory as it sounds, a bit demagogic, yes, but not necessarily contradictory.

    The idea that the fundamentals of Zimbabwe's economy must be restored shouldn't be opposed by anybody with a sane mind. The inflation rate is off the roof, the country has been in recession for a while, the exchange rate is meaningless etc..etc..

    Tackling inflation, the deficit will bring some hardships, period. No matter hwo you decide to do it. Actually the current hyperinflation is a way to "tackle" the chronic deficit, except that the solution is worse than the otherwise harsh measures needed and is at best only temporary.

    And while it is quite hard to do in the short term, in the long term, a welfare state that provides universal education and healthcare and other social goods can coexist with a free market economy.. Western Europe, Japan or in Africa, Botswana and Mauritius show it's possible. The level of taxation and the structure of taxation needed to do so is really what's in dispute. It's a balancing act between taxation a little at a very high rate or a lot at a lower one. And of course, what and who to tax.
    But once again, places like Botswana or Mauritius or Iceland or Ireland or Chile have made the choice of low business taxation and low to high individual taxation and are not in the same situation as Zambia.
    MDC seems to propose a reduction in government payroll to pay for social services and lower taxes (i'm not sure i saw a mention of lower taxes but in case they do..). Of course it all depends on the levels of each and on exactly how much each thing cost but in theory, why not ? The fact that they're not saying that the same expense reduction will also fund massive infrastructure investments is actually reassuring. That is the most problematic part of the land reform, the fact that Zimbabwe ends up with an agriculture that needs extensive government spending. The fact that selling the parastatal is mentionned as a way out of the deficit is less reassuring. If they're indebted and overstaffed, they're probably not worth a lot. So at best you'll have to give them away, at worse you have to do the firing or give some goodies to buyers (never a good idea) in the deal.
    I note that they never say that the market will provide for healthcare and education but rather that the market will create growth, which I assume will be taxed to pay for it.

    On land reform, they say they want one but they don't like the current one. No s##t. That's what they've been saying and that was interpreted by the ruling regime and its cheerleaders as "pro-white farmers". There are many ways to do a land reform, and many goals to have. Whatever happened in Zimbabwe is not the only alternative.
    For some reason, our friend seems to think that the issue is closed. It's actually as closed as it was in 1978 or in 1992. There's a "current" situation, which may satisfy some but as long as there's no consensus, there is a risk of confrontation or reversal.
    In a quite demagogic way, MDC argues that it can be done without pain (pain= infrigement of propriety rights or lower output). That's simply not true. Choices will be made. The question is whether the trade union section of MDC and the business/farms section of MDC have really learned from what happened and have reached a consensus. it really looks like they have pushed the debate away but it's hopeless either.
    Restoring "investor" confidence sounds bad if one thinks "foreigners". But here's a question: how many of the current Black Zimbabweans who received land would invest in anything right now ? Ignoring whether they can or not, is the current situation good for business ? Are there guarantees about their individual ownership of land ? Has the current policy secured the ownership rights of those thousands INDIVIDUALLY or is it more about their collective rights ?
    It's a GREAT thing that they say that communal land holdings will have to disappear in the long term ! One thing that's hugely ignored is the fact that limiting propriety arrangement in the native population to the "communal" mumbo-jumbo was a central part of the racist policy of Rhodesia. In fact preventing entreprising Zimbabweans from selling, buying as they please was a pretty good way to shield the honkies from competition. The mumbo-jumbo about comprehensive legislation that allows all sorts of things is much more scarier.

    All in all, they may be using the magic asterisk of privatization/aid/lowering corruption to pay for their plans, but it is to an extend excusable. After all, they are not in power and have only so much access to the books plus leave some room for adjustment (by saying universal everything won't come right away). But how better is the alternative really ?
    The magic asterisk in the current regime's plans is a mix of "hyperinflation is not inflationary", "the IMF better give us some money because we didn't follow their wrong advice" which is all supposed to have made things a lot better in an alternate universe.
    If MDC's plans are that bad, it is actually ZANU-PF that will benefit from it (assuming there's a real party-structure beyond a few aging key leaders) just like MDC is benefitting from ZANU-PF's current policies and their effect on Zimbabweans.

  3. MrK,

    I actually agree with your broad assessment.

    1. The policies are quite vague and its difficult how they can be delivered.

    2. The position on land is too vague. Especially the bit about "ability".

    3. The role of the IMF and World Bank is not clearly spelt out. These are clearly critical players in light of the SAP years.

    That said, any change from the status quo clearly is a good thing.
    Zimbabwe just needs any government that will restore rule of law.

    Just any govt will do..

  4. Cho,

    That said, any change from the status quo clearly is a good thing.
    Zimbabwe just needs any government that will restore rule of law.

    Just any govt will do..

    The situation in Zimbabwe is not about the rule of law - that is just another MDC talking point.

    What they need is an end to sanctions. Of course, without sanctions, the MDC is nothing, because no one is signing up for their privatisation agenda.

    It isn't just that the role of the IMF is critical and isn't spelt out, but that it is clear they are going to do anything the IMF tells them to do - structural adjustment, destruction of local manufacturing capacity through 'free markets'.

    Here is Eddy Cross on his love affair with privatisation. Notice the literally hundreds of thousands of government employees who are going to lose their jobs when they have their way - hard to imagine ANY Zimbabwean knowingly signing up for that:

    A new Zimbabwe? Eddie Cross and the MDC
    Patrick Bond

    We are going to fast track privatisation. All fifty government parastatals will be privatised within a two-year time frame, but we are going far beyond that. We are going to privatise many of the functions of government. We are going to privatise the Central Statistical Office. We are going to privatise virtually the entire school delivery system. And you know, we have looked at the numbers and we think we can get government employment down from about 300,000 at the present time to about 75,000 in five years.


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