Whenever the word "ERA" is mentioned in Zimbabwe today what quickly comes into the minds of many is the new political dispensation which catapulted President Emmerson Mnangagwa to power following the forced resignation of former president Robert Mugabe amid pressure from the military and the people.
To other Zimbabweans, especially those in the opposition, ERA stands for Economic Reform Assembly, an opposition political party challenging Mnangagwa's "new" political era.
Led by 41-year-old South Africa based Zimbabwean entrepreneur, Amos Dangwa the party was formed in 2016 with a view of encouraging and motivating young people to participate in the country's economic recovery agenda through active involvement in politics.
"In 2016, we sat as different business people, graduates and shared our opinions on the deteriorating state of affairs both politically, socially and economically in our home country, Zimbabwe. A number of concerns were raised which included the reluctance of the young generation to participate in active politics, which has made our country to continue relying old faces running the cabinet. We concluded that most political parties have been focusing on removing Zanu PF but clueless on what to do next.
We said it is now time to usher in a new 'ERA' and let our old leaders sit back and relax and witness what they taught us when they sent us to school being put into practice" said Dangwa in an interview with TellZim News.
Dangwa, who hails from Chikomba district in Mashonaland East but grew up in Bulawayo, said it is sad and unfortunate that despite channelling vast resources towards skills development for its citizens, the country is not getting any returns from human resource development programmes in tertiaries institutions and universities.
"The skills we learnt at school are unfortunately not benefitting this country but countries the world over. We are a party which is agitating for the economic liberation of Zimbabweans while working to empower each and every Zimbabwean. This might take a while but someone has to initiate it. There was a liberation war which involved guns and loss of life, but now is the time to use technology as a weapon to fight the dilapidated economy," said Dangwa.
We need to work together, spare the in-fights between us because of our political, cultural or tribal differences.
Dangwa said while his party welcome President Mnangagwa's recent public promise of free and fair elections, he urges the new head of state to walk that talk.
"If President Mnangagwa is sincere about free and fair elections, there is need for electoral reforms in the country. We also can and should not ignore the diaspora vote. People living outside Zimbabwe are contributing immensely towards the survival of the little trade left in our country. We cannot ignore their desire to vote yet continue enjoying what they send to us. They also have a right to decide their future," said Dangwa.
In order for the country to hold free and credible elections, Dangwa said the airwaves should also be opened to opposition parties.
"Every political party should be given time to show what they have to offer the nation. During elections, citizens should not be victimised for supporting a political party of their choice. Traditional leaders should also be apolitical and they should refuse to be used by the ruling party to coerce people to vote for it. Already we have seen the government bribing chiefs with brand new Isuzu double cab vehicles while critical government departments such as hospitals do not have ambulances," he said.
Despite public pronouncement by Finance minister, Patrick Chinamasa that there were no funds to procure vehicles for chiefs which amounted to $14 million, President Emmerson Mnangagwa went on to handover the first batch of vehicles to traditional chiefs in Gweru during a meeting with the chiefs amid both opposition and public outcry.
The youthful leader said despite calls for an even political field, his party will not boycott this year's elections. He argued that election boycott does not help anybody apart from perpetuating the suffering of Zimbabweans. Last year, the main opposition MDC –T boycotted by-elections citing flawed electoral processes.
"What we need to understand is that the ruling party is still on the driving seat and it will try to protect its firm grip on power. Once we refuse to participate in elections because electoral reforms have not been implemented, we will continue carrying this baggage of suffering till 2023. In 2013, MDC boycotted the by-elections and nothing changed," said the presidential aspirant.
Dangwa said the MDC should not have boycotted the by-elections but instead fight for change while in parliament.
Asked on how he is managing to coordinate the activities of party since he is based outside the country, Dangwa said new communication technologies have come at handy for his party.
"Technology such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp were doing wonders to our political marketing. With this technology, you do not need to be all over the country for you voice to be heard. My party also believes in separating the leaders from the party. ERA is for the people and it is not centred on me alone," he said.
So far, Dangwa said, the party had solid structures in all the major cities such as Bulawayo, Mutare, Harare and Masvingo.
He said the party is currently in the process of setting up more structures all over the country including in rural areas.
The ERA leader lamented what he described as the commercialisation of politics in Zimbabwe.
He said many people in the country still believe that the party should splash money and material things for them to support it.
"What some people don't seem to understand is that the ruling party uses State resources and all other political parties are self-funding. In cases like these, small political parties will definitely experience difficulties in financing all the needs of the people. We try not to encourage vote-buying which is excised by other parties, the buying of party regalia, fliers, disbursement of food. I know times are hard, but if people could understand that politics is not about splashing money on the people, but focusing more on having a common goal which is to liberate ourselves financially," he said.
The opposition leader also urged Zimbabweans to take advantage of the current extended voter registration to register in their number.
"You control your future. Do not let other people decide your destiny. We cannot continue recycling the same old ideas and anticipate change. Zimbabwe needs a complete revamp in terms of its administration. We want to usher in new blood, people with vision, people who have the intention and zeal to drive the country forward.
"We currently have a government which has an obligation to its own friends and family members but nothing for its nation, a government which has lost touch with the general population, a government built by a 'syndicate' more than by servants of the people, a government which feels that they are better than everyone else and everyone has to bow to them," he added.
The party has already crafted its policy ahead of this year's elections.
The policy code-named ENGINE RESTART focus areas:
Education, national security reform, economic growth, infrastructure rehabilitation, national health and social welfare among other sectors.top news