President Emerson Mnangagwa came to power in 2018 and in his second Republic he has adopted Vision 2030, a developmental strategic plan that seeks to grow the country into a middle economy by 2030.
The government embarked on a robust modernisation and rehabilitation of the country’s infrastructure, and one in particular is the road network.
So far, over US$2.5 billion has been spent on various projects which are seen as key enablers to the achievement of targets set under Vision 2030.
There are road rehabilitation projects in every constituency and the most audacious is the ongoing upgrade of the Harare-Beitbridge highway, a project which stretches to Chirundu on the Northern border with Zambia.
With the country currently battling economic woes, inflation spiralling out of hand coupled by loss of value of the local currency, rise in prices of goods and services, there is massive pressure on the ruling party ZANU-PF to ensure that they bring stability in the country’s economy and deliver on its pre-election promises.
Since coming to power, Mnangagwa’s government has been strongly criticised for its failure to successfully stabilise the economy, leading to the freefall of the country’s currency.
As the country is due to go for by-elections next month and the much expected general election in 2023, economic distress continue to affect the country, accompanied by an increase in levels of poverty and standards of living.
Given account of this economic quagmire the country is currently fighting with, is there a subtle mission by the ruling party to entice the urban voter come 2023?
This is against the backdrop that since the turn of the millennium, most urban councils in the country have been predominantly run by the opposition and most if not all of these urban councils are in a state of neglect, something the ruling party has credited to the opposition’s poor governance and incompetence.
Most urban councils, led by the MDC-Alliance formerly led by Nelson Chamisa have been failing to provide residents and businesses with mere basic facilities such as clean water, primary health care, refuse collection, repair roads and other facilities.
Recently, during ZANU-PF’s Harare Province by-election launch in Chitungwiza, the party’s deputy secretary for Youth Affairs Tendai Chirau accused the opposition of ‘ruining towns and cities’ while urging the party’s supporters to unite against the opposition.
There seems to be ample evidence to show that the nationwide road infrastructure and rehabilitation project has somehow been hijacked and is being used as a campaign ploy by the ruling party ZANU-PF to outsmart the opposition and win back urban seats ahead of the upcoming by-elections next month and in 2023.
Writing on his official twitter account, ZANU-PF director of information Tafadzwa Mugwadi pointed to the fact that the ruling party is banking on the success it has made under Vision 2030 to translate it into electoral conquest in 2023.
“The road to 5 million+ will be won on the backdrop of our victories on infrastructure development, a productive agriculture system, economic growth, stabilisation of the finance sector, welfare of our civil servants, crack on corruption, unity of our people and TrustEd Statesman,” he wrote.
WILL THE INFRASTRUCTURAL TRUMP CARD PAY OFF?
However, speaking to Review and Mail, political analysts expressed a different view arguing that the urban voter is very much aware of ZANU-PF shenanigans which include its meddling with local authority business and suppressing funds which ultimately led to the urban councils failure to deliver their mandate.
Others dismissed completely any relation between the ongoing rehab projects countrywide and campaign and elections.
Political commentator Freeman Bhoso argues that the so-called ‘massive road rehabilitation’ programme is an embarrassing lie by ZANU-PF and a misrepresentation of facts on the ground.
“The so called “massive road rehabilitation” are an embarrassing lie and misrepresentation of reality. This has been typified by allegations of massive corruption in the tendering process and consequently compromising the outcome which is poor road construction,” said Bhoso.
Bhoso further adds that ZANU-PF is complicit and the authors of the incompetence urban councils are blamed for.
“Road rehabilitation is actually an insult to injury that is, the already prevailing situation. The urban population are very much aware that the government has suffocated supply of money for urban road rehabilitation but use the same funds through ZINARA after calling for a “state of national disaster” so that they hijack the mandate of the local authority,” he said.
Bhoso however concluded by saying that the urban community is very clear regarding their voting pattern and they have been the hardest hit by socio-economic shocks but the biggest undoing would be voter apathy.
Another analyst, Alexander Rusero however had a different opinion and posited that there is a faded relationship between road rehabilitation projects and the elections arguing the Mnangagwa’s government will never appeal to urban areas.
“I don’t think there’s a relationship whatsoever between road rehabilitation vis-a-vis campaigning and electioneering. It’s a fact that the ZANU-PF regime does not command any support in the urban areas and does not even lure or have an appeal such that it can torpedo the opposition in urban areas,” he said.
Rusero further adds that there is a need to understand the political economy dynamics at play involved in road rehabilitation and infrastructure development projects.
“Zimbabwe is a country embroiled in massive corruption. Some of the things you may be seeing as development are actually tenders for certain people and individuals lining their pockets siphoning resources from the state,” said Rusero.
He adds, “A government should actually be in the habit of rehabilitating its roads whether there is an election or not because it is the mandate of the state to take charge of its infrastructure.
Analysts bemoaned the rate at which one sector is moving in terms of development which is in parallel contrast to others which are declining pointing out that other sectors like education, health and water needed urgent address and be prioritised since they continue to sink instead of using development as a way of campaigning and torpedoing the opposition ahead of the upcoming elections.