Introducing the Zimbabwe Manifesto Analysis Tool (ZIMAT)

June 8th, 2018

Words by Tendai Murisa

11 min read

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Politics and Public Policy

Introduction

At Sivio Institute, we are committed to promoting a broader understanding of democracy. The practice of democracy has often been misconstrued as synonymous to elections. At its basic level the idea of democracy is broader it includes the work that citizens do with each other and also with officeholders. Elections play an important role in the life of the republic - they contribute towards renewing leadership and provide an opportunity for citizens to make regular decisions on who should be representing them. However, we argue that elections are a necessary but not sufficient condition for democracy. Furthermore, we also hold to the ideal that the process of choosing representatives for political/public office should be viewed beyond limited focus of political rhetoric and be viewed as contest of ideas. In many instances the criteria on how officeholders are voted into office has not been adequately examined. As a way of extending the conversation on the role of elections, we carried out a survey on factors that influence how citizens vote. In that survey 42.1% confirmed that they read and compare the set of ideas presented by political parties through their manifestos. However 83% of the same sample also confirmed that they also make a decision on who to vote for based on the type of leader1. The responses to the survey provided motivation for us to consider promoting a broader discussion on political party manifesto to; (i) benefit those who want to engage with the manifestos and (ii) to hopefully contribute towards a new political culture that engages with the set of ideas presented by those vying for public office before voting. The discussion that follows provides a detailed description of the tool that we have just developed appropriately named the Zimbabwe Manifesto Analysis Tool (ZIMAT). We also believe that such an analysis provides scope to nurture a more informed citizenry. Research2 has shown that the more informed a citizen is the greater their agency is, and also the more they are able to exercise their democratic rights3. We believe that voters need to be informed about the values and proposals of the political contenders, as well as have a framework by which to hold them accountable should they then be elected.

The Process

In its simplistic form, a manifesto is a “statement declaring publicly the intentions, motives, or views of its issuer”. We note from the beginning that there is an inconclusive debate on the utility of these documents. Questions being raised include:

  1. Do citizens actually read them?
  2.  In the case that they do, to what extent do they play a role in influencing their voting decisions and
  3. Are political parties sincere about the ideas they present or it’s just way of getting voted into office and then forget about the commitments they made.

As already mentioned our survey on Voting Decision Making found that there is a significant cohort that reads and compares manifestos. Furthermore, findings from our February survey found that citizens expect officeholders to address specific public problems ranging from under-performance of the economy, collapsing social service delivery through to corruption. The analysis of Manifestos provides probably the best way of methodically examining if the political party is responding to the needs of citizens. It is also a more reliable unit of analysis especially when we want to compare political parties. The manifestos have been launched over a very long time. The first was launched on 27 January 2018 and the most recent was launched on 20 June 2018. We chose to analyse five political parties’ manifestos using a SMAART4 analysis framework. The framework measures the extent to which each promise made is Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Affordable and Timebound. The table below explains each category of measure:

Category Definition
Specific Is the promise precise and well defined or is it vague, equivocating and intangible?)
Measurable Is the promise quantifiable or quantitatively measurable? Is there a clear way to observe and track success and progress?
Achievable Based on available resources and existing constraints, is the promise reachable or possible?
Affordable Can the promise be fulfilled purely on government funding, unless otherwise indicated? If otherwise indicated, can the said source of funding fully cover the costs? Is the proposed source of funding viable?
Realistic Can the promise realistically be achieved, given available resources and time frame. Unless directly stated, the time frame was limited to the 5-year term that would be afforded by election into office.
Timebound Is the promise limited to achievement within a specified period of time? Some Manifestos clearly stated at the top that they were for the 2018 – 2023, whilst others did not specify.

 

We had to find common ground to create a reasonable comparative framework. We went back to the surveys we had done in the past and looked for things that citizens cared for the most. We identified nine clusters. We then catalogued all the promises made within the manifesto into the nine clusters. Each promise analysed had the potential of scoring a total of 6 points, and thus the score of each promise was the weighting or as we would called it, the SIVIO Score. The Sivio Score measures each promise on its own merits and the scores are aggregated initially per cluster as well as overall. The manifestos contained varying numbers of promises ranging from 80 to 484. Our framework’s scoring is based on a perfect of six multiplied by the number of promises made. We then use the actual score per promises and divide that with the perfect score and multiply by 100 to get the SIVIO Score. For example the MDC Alliance scored 93.39% for their promises in the social sector because their overall SMAART score was 622 out of a possible score of 666 for the 111 promises they had made.

The tool also evaluates which sectors received more attention (i.e. had more promises) compared to the others, thus revealing the priority areas of each party. The percentage is weighed by dividing the number of promises per sector by the total number of promises made. For example, 67,23% of Zanu PF promises were in the Economic sector which accounted for 199 out of their 296 promises made. This data is also important for one to be able to appreciate the priority areas for each party. Though the Sivio Score is able to weigh the quality of promises in the sectors, one may also want to know which areas the parties are focussing on. It must be noted that many promises do not fit neatly in a single category, thus they were placed in the best possible fit. Though the analysis provides a substantive glimpse into the ideas of each political party, it cannot substitute a full reading of the manifesto document, and the promises therein.

We also measured the ideological leanings of each promise which are also aggregated both by sector and overall, to determine if the intentions of the party are more pro-poor, pro-market, a hybrid of the 2 or simply populist. For instance, the Thokozani Khupe led faction of the MDC-T’s social and economic promises were largely pro-poor, unlike Dr. Nkosana Moyo’s APA approach which was Hybrid and pro-market respectively. Again, it is also important to note that not all the promises would fit neatly into one type of ideology, thus the evaluators categorised them based on what would be the best fit, and not necessarily the only fit.

Populist: Acknowledging that the term populist has come to be associated with a negative form of politics and is often used in a pejorative sense, we used it in the original understanding. Merriam Webster defines populism as “a member of a political party claiming to represent the common people” whilst the Oxfords dictionary defines it as “characteristic of a political approach that strives to appeal to ordinary people who feel that their concerns are disregarded by established elite groups”. This is not to argue that populism has not been used as a tool to manipulate the electorate, as that may still happen. As such promises to do with human rights guarantees and equality for women may have been classified as populist in this sense but could also neatly fit under pro-poor

Pro-poor and Pro-market: The other 3 ideological categories are related in that they all speak to the political economy of the promises. A pro-poor promise is one that is a direct effort to alleviate poverty, assist the financially disadvantaged and excluded and to some extent to redistribute resources to ensure access for those with no access. The provision of free basic education or free basic healthcare were common promises that are categorised as Pro-poor, as they are designed to ease the lives of the underprivileged in society. The pro-market approach on the other hand is the antithesis to this as it focusses on those with resources, creating opportunities for those with the means of production to effectively increase the processes of accumulation as well as to attract investment and business. Though the pro-market approach can ultimately benefit the poor, they would be collateral beneficiaries, and not the intended beneficiaries. The promise to “consolidate the financial sector” in the APA manifesto is one such example, as the end goal of this would be for better financing of companies. Economic trickle-down theory would argue that improving financing of banks would lead to the company’s expansion thus growing the economy growing, thus perhaps creating more jobs or increasing the governments taxable income thus resources for social services; and though these possible downstream benefits may eventually prove to be pro-poor, they are neither guaranteed nor the primary purpose of the policy.

Hybrid: The Hybrid category, is our creation. It embraces both the pro-poor and pro-market approaches by creating business opportunities for the sake of alleviating poverty. An example of the hybrid approach from the BZA manifesto is the promise to “Develop world class road and railway network by 2023”. This promise would benefit businesses as it would make transportation of goods cheaper as well as faster, but it also affords the poor a more affordable form of transportation thus they can travel cheaper as well as access markets (e.g. communal and small-scale farmers). The primary beneficiaries would be both the underprivileged as well as the businesses. Other promises such as the infrastructure projects proposed by the MDC-T are also classified as Hybrid, because though they will be creating business opportunities through more government tenders, but the primary intention of the policy is the creation of jobs through the projects, thus making it a hybrid proposition.

It is important to note, however, that the SIVIO score is not a definitive measure on which party is better - instead our focus is to consider how they score across the different clusters. We believe that voting citizens are bound to look at different things and one party may score high in one cluster and struggle in others. We also appreciate that the political parties; were not given notice that their manifestos would be subjected to such rigor. However, they should also know better they are seeking to govern and citizens deserve the right to pry open these parties and examine the set of ideas that they present. We are also interested in evaluating the ideas that are shaping the political discourse. By evaluating the quality of manifestos that the parties are producing and the promises they are making we are able to have a richer and hopefully more deliberative approach to the discussion of ideas. It has been said that people stick to political parties in the same way they are loyal to their football teams. If that is true it is unfortunate supporting a political party should ideally not just be an emotional act or blind loyalty instead it should be informed by thorough examination of previous performance, quality of promises being made, and the set of leaders being presented. We believe that our ZIMAT makes a significant contribution towards deepening analysis and hopefully improving the quality of voting decisions.

Considerations

In considering the results of the analysis, there were some interesting points worth noting. Zanu PF appears to have scored the lowest of all the parties, but its score suffered greatly from not limiting some of their promises to a particular timeframe. In planning, time limits are imperative because they allow for better measurement of delivery as well as the feasibility of a strategy. Though it is assumed, unless otherwise stated, that the promises made are to be achieved within a single term of office, the same assumption cannot be used in evaluation because that intention if not clearly specified  can be misinterpreted .On the other hand  the party could reasonably argue implementation was meant for a longer period on the assumption of re-election. While Zanu PF did not clearly articulate the time frames for some of its promises, the MDC-T avoided the confusion by stating clearly at the beginning of the manifesto that the proposed promises where for the 5-year term beginning 2018 and ending 2023.  This explicit declaration at the beginning allowed the MDC-T and the MDC Alliance room to only have to implicitly state a timeframe only when it was outside of the given period (e.g. 2030). APA clearly demarcated the promises by the time frame within which they were to be achieved – i.e. Short, Medium and Long term (1 year, 5 years and 10 years respectively) - and thus also scored highly.

The question of affordability also proved a challenging one. The definition limited the analysis to questioning whether the promise could be funded under the fiscus unless otherwise indicated. This meant we would question if the elected government could fund the promise/ project within the fiscus even using the proposed growth trajectories (e.g. the MDC Alliances proposed $100 Billion economy). Ultimately, some of the propositions such as “Upgrade the 10 district hospitals to world class standard” were viewed as unaffordable based on the capacity of government. Though it may be possible to achieve the world class hospitals with support from the private sector or through BOTs, unless stated as such the promise was weighed on the universal assumption that this would be supported by the fiscus.

This was further limited by the fact that each promise was weighed on its own merits and demerits. Though it was read in the context of the overall document, it was analysed on its own merits thus though some promises would individually be considered Affordable, Achievable and Realistic , but when aggregated the same might not be true. The MDC Alliance Manifesto is an example of this whereby the timely payment of pensions to war veterans including the veterans of the DRC war, could be considered affordable within the $100 billion economy, however when aggregated with all the other promises the whole manifesto may not be affordable or realistic. The major infrastructural developments as well as social security pay-outs would cripple the proposed savings plan to grow the economy to a $100 billion economy and/ or simply prove unaffordable.

Conclusion>

It must be said that overall all the political parties performed well and scored quite high. There were many similarities in the content and ideas being put forward by the different parties with the differences either being in implementation and or in being more expansive. In the effort to hold our elected officials accountable, an appreciation and understanding of their official positions and promises is essential. These manifestos also reflect the elevated level of discourse in Zimbabwean politics, that reflects thought and research in the proposals being put forward. However, in celebrating the high level of analytical thought we should also acknowledge that promises and manifestos are just proposals (marketing brochures), but it is always the implementation that counts. Though the thoughts and ideas put forward may be noble and invigorating, unless they are supported by political will and proper implementation they will only  remain as well crafted documents to be resuscitated in the next election. The 2018 Harmonised elections are fast approaching, and whoever will be taking office in the next administration will have a mammoth task ahead of them, and the hope is that all these ideas and thoughts will provide a guiding framework and find expression in the new government.

The citizens have both the privilege and obligation of deciding the course of the next 5 years in Zimbabwe. Withstanding other factors, the votes of the citizens will decide who takes office whilst their level of engagement in the governance process will determine how they govern for those 5 years. The practice of democracy does not end at the ballot box, but rather begins at that point for yet another 5-year cycle. ZIMAT is designed as a tool to encourage the citizens of Zimbabwe to continue to deliberate about which ideas as well as how ideas are shaping our democracy. We want to ensure they are more informed and better equipped to participate in developing the Zimbabwe they envision.

[1] Our questionnaire allowed for multiple responses.

[2]Citizen participation in decision-making: can one make a difference? C Fitzgerald, S McCarthy, et al. Journal of Decision Systems, 25:sup1, 248-260

[3] If Democracies Need Informed Voters, How Can They Thrive While Expanding Enfranchisement? Hochschild JL. Election Law Journal: Rules, Politics, and Policy [Internet]. 2010;9 (2) :111-123.

[4] We might as well explain that we developed our analytical framework well before the MDC Alliance launched its manifesto which has the same acronym. Our acronym comes from the Strategy Literature and in there it has always been used to analyse Goals established by an entity and we found that it was a close approximation of measuring the promises made by political parties.

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