Nelson Chamisa. Picture: TIMESLIVE
Nelson Chamisa. Picture: TIMESLIVE

Zimbabwe’s largest opposition party, the MDC Alliance, led by Nelson Chamisa, on Thursday launched its election manifesto in Harare with a pledge to turn the nearly-comatose economy into a $100bn one by 2029.

The economy, which has contracted sharply over the past 20 years, hard-hit by sanctions, flight by foreign investors and most recently by a severe foreign-currency squeeze that has left companies on their last legs, has emerged as the central battleground for the political parties that will take part in the July 30 general election.

The policy, dubbed Sustainable and Modern Agenda for Real Transformation (SMART) proposes joining the Rand Monetary Union as a measure to stop the cash crisis that is now running into its third year.

John Robertson, an economist and founder of Robertson Economics, however, said the adoption of the rand as a currency without productivity in Zimbabwe would be a short-lived policy. It was not as clever as it sounded. “The first task is to boost industry and agriculture before focusing on what currency to use.”

Other crucial issues to look at in reviving the economy, Robertson said, would include giving voters a policy that reduced the cost of doing business, reduced government ownership and interference and boosted investor confidence, especially on property rights.

Meanwhile, ahead of the elections, several polls are split on who will be victorious in the first election in which long-time ruler, Robert Mugabe, will take no part.

On Thursday, Zimbabwe’s Mass Public Opinion Institute in partnership with Afrobarometer said the incumbent, President Emmerson Mnangagwa would win 42% of the vote and Chamisa would get 31%, leading to a poll run-off. The run-off has been scheduled to take place on September 8.

Trends & Insights for Africa said Mnangagwa would get 68.5% and Chamisa 19.5%.

Another poll by Pan African Forum Limited, released last week, predicted a victory for Mnangagwa by 70%, to Chamisa’s 24%.

The Paarl-based NKC African Economics in a recent note tipped “Zanu-PF likely to win the poll despite continuing division in the party” and warned that “there will be some uncertainty over the legitimacy of the vote amid signs of localised rigging”.

The national broadcaster, the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation on Thursday aired live the launch of the MDC’s election manifesto. The opening up of the airwaves to the opposition is one of the demands the MDC Alliance made, in order to level the playing field.

The MDC Alliance now joins other political parties, the ruling Zanu-PF, the Rainbow Coalition under Joice Mujuru and a splinter MDC party under Thokozani Khupe that have launched their election manifestos ahead of the July 30 general election.