By Joel Mandaza
Images from last week`s POLAD year ender at President Emmerson Mnangagwa`s Kwekwe farm gave ammunition to those who have always considered the platform to be problematic.
The optics presented a lack of autonomy on the whole structure, showing a deliberate tilt towards the whims of the incumbent.
Presented as a broad based dialogue platform for political parties to collude and find a way to salvage what`s left of the country as the economic crisis rages on, POLAD has failed to inspire.
The first reason many are struggling to take it seriously is how it failed to attract one of the biggest stakeholders in Zimbabwean politics, MDC Alliance.
Fact of the matter in Zimbabwean politics is that the real game is between Zanu PF and MDC Alliance, after those two everyone else becomes peripheral.
This is why bright minds like Fadzayi Mahere had to take the sober decision of joining MDC Alliance after defeat in the Parliamentary race.
The absence of MDC-Alliance in POLAD makes it look like one of the many tricks Zanu PF has been pulling in recent years trying to skirt the fundamental issue of political reforms.
How can there be any political dialogue in the absence of the second largest political party in the country, by way of Parliamentary seats and even support base?
Political parties run in elections to see if they can derive a mandate to represent them, the fact that except Zanu PF, POLAD has other losers in the Presidential elections that had a few votes, probably from just their family and friends.
Such people cannot pretend to speak on behalf of the people.
A party without structures being part of a national dialogue process means it goes to the table with arguments crafted in lounges and not through consultation.
Surely tax payers cannot be expected to fund musings of a few peripheral politicians recited for the entertainment of one big brother.
There is no need for anyone to be part of the political dialogue, it speaks to the age old cliché; too many cooks spoil the broth.
When the broth is the collective aspirations of a nation called Zimbabwe there has to be strict monitoring of who makes it into the kitchen.
There has to be meaningful criteria on who makes POLAD.
That is the only way it can achieve the respect its proponents wish it could get.
A political party without Parliamentary representation cannot speak on behalf of people.
If people wanted them to be their representatives they would have elected them in the 2018 elections.
Speaking on behalf of people is earned; there are people in Parliament who devoted their time and resources to campaign, they should be allowed to exercise their earned rights.
Parliament should be where pressing matters are discussed, even if the need of a parallel system like POLAD arises, there has to be a way that resolutions are brought back to the mainstream policy making space.
How can Engineer Peter Munyanduri – who promised Zimbabweans bacon every morning if he wins- push for the implementation of reforms when he does not even have a single councillor in his party.
Since his emergence as a Presidential candidate, he has been walking alone, how is his presence in POLAD different from picking anyone from the street?
Is running for a seat enough to earn someone spaces within the high level decision making bodies in the country?
At least those with members in Parliament can get them to move motions, where do all these other POLAD guys take their resolutions?
The administration of POLAD itself leaves a lot to be desired.
The fact that the Office of the President and Cabinet runs the POLAD Secretariat, shows how limited the idea is in so far as discussing divergent views.
There is MDC Alliance who have tensions with the administration, can they believe in a dialogue process whose organisation lies in the office they have issues with?
Without key deliverables, POLAD remains another meaningless echo chamber.
No one knows what it is meant to achieve even to date.
This is why at their end of year party, they listed absurdities as milestones.
Under a section titled POLAD achievements in 2019 on their annual report they listed taking part in clean-up campaigns as a major achievement.
Some of the listed victories included;
“Increased call for the removal of sanctions through participation at the SADC anti-sanctions march in Harare.”
“Increased visibility of POLAD through social responsibility activities such as the monthly clean-up day.”
Although the above words read like a high school club clutching at straws to justify its existence, this is part of what the broad based political dialogue in Zimbabwe has been up to.
This is despite the fact that the country is going through the worst economic crisis in a decade.
POLAD is not convincing in its current form.
Judging from the time it has been in existence and the personalities it houses, one would be highly optimistic to believe in the idea.
There is need to streamline it, reduce the numbers to those who have Parliamentary representatives.
In addition, there is need to set out what the platform seeks to achieve and inform the people of its intentions.
From there, considerations have to be made on how to reach a compromise with MDC-Alliance who are currently outside the structure.
Their presence will do more for the platform more than all the other small parties (that are not Zanu PF) combined.
Zimbabwe`s public spending has to be result oriented and at this point it does not appear like POLAD will bring anything meaningful to this country, unless if it is re-imagined.