Zimbabweans vote on July 30, in about eight-and-a-half weeks for the President and Parliament who will run the Government until the middle of 2023.
Obviously, who wins will have a direct bearing on just how fast Zimbabwe can grow its economy and on just how quickly the gains in wealth can be spread or trickled down or otherwise distributed to the greatest number of people.
There are few major ideological differences, so far as we can see from what has been said, and in some cases it is not much, between the parties or alliances who have any realistic chance of securing at least one seat.
But there will be equally obviously a great deal of difference on emphasis, the methods to be used and other matters that will make a difference to how the country looks in early August once the results are in.
But generally all the larger political movements seem to want an open economy, want growth to stress productive employment and creation of real jobs or respectable self-employment, want corruption eliminated, want a lot of transparency, and want a society where everyone can sound off on their grouses, ideas, dreams etc without a worry. So nobody in the business world is that worried that there will be sudden weird anti-business policies. In fact the business sectors are finding themselves in the front seats for a change, with everyone at least declaring that they are friends of business, and by the look of things being genuine about these declarations.
So business, like many others, will be interested in how effective the new government forming in August might be, and how coherent their policies are programmes are.
But Zimbabwe is not just choosing a President and Parliament. We are also having to meet criteria which all who wish us well – old friends, neighbours and new friends – have made it clear are very important. We have to have a genuine election, a peaceful election and one where the winners have a clear mandate from voters who were able to make up their minds on the merits of the candidates and their programmes, not on any pressures or manipulations.
We have been told, almost in words of one syllable, that we will be able to walk through many of the doors that the present administration has opened in the last six months to the global community. Many on the other side of those doors have been helping to open them, because they want Zimbabwe to realise those many dreams we showed we were capable of at independence. Of course no one is going to be handing out billions of dollars, but simply having a stable political, economic and social environment makes business and support possible.
So everyone, from the youngest and poorest voter up to the most illustrious candidates has the responsibility of making this election work. This does not mean we have to all sit around on a lawn holding hands.
There will be, and must be, conflict. After all we are choosing our future, and that is important. But it does mean that clashes must be clashes of ideas, not fists; it means that arguments must be rational and in words, not boots. And finally it means that the losers have to accept that loss, and congratulate and work with the winners. Somewhat worryingly only one major candidate, the present President, has made that commitment.
A great deal of effort has already been put in place to make this the fairest poll Zimbabwe has ever had. The old voters roll has been junked, and is not mourned. The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission now owns the roll and has gone to a lot of effort to make sure that it is clean, that all entitled to vote had the opportunity of getting on the roll, and that no one will be able to vote more than once.
The actual polling procedures are largely in place, and we should remember that even in past elections the actual polling was clean. Polling officers are civil servants, with teachers predominating, and although like everyone else they vote on the secret ballot, we assume that the split between parties among these officers is roughly the same as the split as the general population.
So any polling irregularities will be quickly noticed. Where courts in the past have been critical, and there were successful electoral petitions in the High Court after the 2003 poll, it has been the environment that was found to be faulty, not the actual voting.
And that is why it is so important that this time the environment is the correct one for a fair poll. So far the signs are good. No one has complained that they are unable to campaign and major candidates have already started their travels.
The churches have been turning up the pressure to help. Quite properly they have been careful, in most cases, not to endorse anyone. But they have made it clear that everyone has a right, and even a duty, to vote and that people should apply their consciences when they exercise that right and duty, voting for the three candidates for their council, Parliament and President whom they feel are the best. And, yes, allowing their neighbours to do the same.
We would like to join that chorus. What is good for the people, and good for Zimbabwe, is also good for business.