Zimbabwe poll: Hey‚ big spender... wouldn't you like to have funds‚ funds‚ funds?

11 April 2018 - 09:45 By JAMES THOMPSON
President Emmerson Mnangagwa. File photo.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa. File photo.
Image: Reuters

Political party funding has come under the spotlight ahead of the upcoming general elections in Zimbabwe.

Last week Zanu-PF's national commissar‚ Retired Lieutenant-General Engelbert Rugeje‚ told members the party would soon distribute millions of campaign materials to the masses.

"As for regalia‚ we have 15 million T-shirts‚ 15 million caps and some of them have already arrived‚” he said.

"We also have two million (body) wrappers for women. This year we want every party member to get at least three caps and three T-shirts. We want to paint the country with our regalia‚ such that‚ out of every three people you meet‚ two will be in Zanu-PF party regalia‚" he said.

Last year‚ in preparation for the election season‚ Zanu-PF spent more than US$60 million on 365 off-road vehicles‚ most of them Ford Rangers. At the time of the purchase‚ the late MDC T leader Morgan Tsvangirai branded Zanu-PF a "mafia" organisation.

In 2013‚ all election candidates were given either a Ford Ranger‚ Toyota Hilux or Ford Everest.

"When the party won‚ we kept the cars‚" said an election candidate from the Midlands‚ who lost. If his candidature is approved‚ he is due for another car.

Political analyst Professor Philani Moyo from Fort Hare University is of the view that Zanu-PF will have the upper hand because of money.

"We are likely to see Zanu-PF outspending other political parties on regalia‚ campaign vehicles and a sustained media blitz in terms of visibility. I foresee Zanu-PF being miles ahead of the MDC Alliance‚ People's Rainbow Coalition by end of May. Whether that will translate into votes will be known once election results are announced‚" he said.

So far‚ it looks gloomy for the MDC T under the leadership of Nelson Chamisa. The party is heading towards a watershed election but is heavily in debt. Its workers have gone for months without pay. To make matters worse‚ it has been split into two‚ the other MDC being led by former deputy president Thokozani Khupe.

Both factions applied to receive $1.8 million owed to the MDC T under the Political Parties Finance Act (PPFA) and it was given to the MDC T.

"That money is not enough. It will last a few rallies and not help candidates in their respective constituencies. It can't even buy enough campaign T-shirts‚" said Moyo.

During its formidable years leading to 2008‚ when Tsvangirai beat Mugabe in the first round of elections‚ the party was accused of being funded by the West‚ who have allegedly withdrawn financial support.

For relatively smaller parties such as the Alliance for People's Agenda (APA) led by Dr Nkosana Moyo‚ the going is tough. This week some members abandoned the party because it has no financial capacity.

"We also renounce our candidature under the APA ticket in the upcoming 2018 elections. The reasons for us departing from the party are; there is value in being an independent candidate‚ more in touch with the electorate on the ground‚ lack of party funding for candidates‚ no clear structure within the party especially at national level‚ no clear road map for the election campaign‚" read a letter from a group of disgruntled members.

Former Zanu-PF member Professor Jonathan Moyo‚ who was part of the party's 2013 election campaign and is now in political exile‚ took to Twitter to reveal the alleged source of Zanu-PF's 2013 campaign funds. He claimed that diamond revenues and state funds to the tune of at least US$70 million were used.