President Robert Mugabe’s ruling Zanu PF, whose stone-broke government is struggling to pay civil servants their salaries and keep social services ticking, is to spend tens of millions of scarce dollars to buy 480 top-of-the-range off-road vehicles to be used in the party’s campaigns ahead of the eagerly-anticipated 2018 national elections.
Contacted by the Daily News yesterday for comment, a guarded youth league secretary for finance, Tongai Kasukuwere, confirmed that they had made “a request for resources” for use in the party’s campaign “seeing that 2018 is around the corner”.
“We need to be on the ground, and so naturally we must be prepared. We have made our request, although I cannot say how many vehicles we need, as that is for the secretary for transport to say.
“Besides, we will welcome and receive whatever the party gives us,” he said.
Earlier in the day, consistently-reliable party sources had revealed that Mugabe had recently given party organs, including the key youth and women’s leagues, assurances that the under pressure and woefully-undercapitalised Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) would allegedly bankroll the acquisition of spanking new Ford Everest 4X4 vehicles.
The news came as the World Bank had just confirmed in one of its latest reports that Zimbabwe’s economy is dying — after it also downgraded the country from its list of improved economies to the unflattering tier of struggling countries, as Harare’s political and economic turmoil continues to escalate.
Efforts by the Daily News to get comment from the central bank were unsuccessful, with governor John Mangudya said to be still out of the country on official business.
Ahead of the hotly-disputed 2013 harmonised elections, Zanu PF had also splashed about $10 million on the posh off-roaders which sell for about R500 000 each in neighbouring South Africa where they are imported from.
The well-placed sources said Mugabe had given the assurance about the planned vehicle purchases when he met the youth league national executive at the Zanu PF headquarters at the time when he also unexpectedly promoted Kudzanai Chipanga to head the influential organ.
“The president acknowledged the youth league’s request for vehicles saying he was going to make use of the facility that Zanu PF has with the RBZ to acquire the vehicles.
“It was also decided that the vehicles will be acquired not only for youths, but also for all the organs of the party including the women’s league, as well as parliamentary candidates,” a senior party bigwig said, adding that the nonagenarian had tasked secretary for administration, Ignatius Chombo, to expedite the process.
Repeated efforts by the Daily News to talk to Chombo yesterday drew a blank, with his office saying he was out of the country on unspecified business.
But opposition parties and pro-democracy activists who spoke to the newspaper brandished Zanu PF’s plan to splash funds on its election vehicle fleet as both “sick and immoral”.
“A snowball has a better chance of surviving in hell than the Zanu PF regime being able to afford buying 480 off-road vehicles for its 2018 election campaign without looting the little State resources that are still left to be looted in Zimbabwe.
“This is another criminal and fraudulent scheme to defraud the State of its financial resources in order to bankroll the election campaign of a political party that can never, ever win a free and fair election in Zimbabwe,” MDC spokesperson Obert Gutu said.
“The RBZ is technically insolvent. The RBZ doesn’t even have a week’s import cover of foreign currency reserves. The central bank is like a leaking sieve. It is totally bankrupt.
“The Zanu PF regime has never really cared about the plight of the majority of the citizens. For the sake of holding onto political power, Mugabe and Zanu PF are even prepared to walk on our dead bodies. These people have got absolutely no shame. They have got no heart and no conscience,” Gutu added.
Political analyst and co-ordinator of the WomenForWomen group, Maureen Kademaunga, said the current economic situation made it difficult for even Zanu PF to purchase vehicles without raiding the coffers of the RBZ.
“We have seen in the past how Zanu PF’s undue political interference with monetary policy has eroded the inflation-fighting credibility of the RBZ, and history is about to repeat itself. Our government is likely to abuse the bond note facility by overprinting them to finance its budget deficit and its spending.
“This will inevitably lead to a deeper economic crisis. It is not possible under the current multi-currency regime for Zanu PF to buy these 480 vehicles through an unfunded facility with the central bank,” she said.
“This is why they want to introduce the bond notes. My suspicion is that they will print and use the cash balances to purchase the said vehicles and fund a brutal campaign. Clearly, the ruling party’s priority is the retention of power at an exorbitant expense to the ordinary person.
“The purchase of campaign vehicles through the central bank should be the last thing, given that the government is failing to meet other commitments such as servicing the civil service salary bill. It’s these sorts of decisions that must inform the common person’s ballot choice come 2018,” Kademaunga added.
Mugabe and Zanu PF are facing the biggest test to their long rule as opposition parties have closed ranks to work towards the formation of a grand coalition ahead of the watershed 2018 elections.
Analysts say such a coalition could bring an end to Mugabe and Zanu PF’s dominance of the Zimbabwe political landscape, where their poor policies are blamed for ruining the once-vibrant local economy.
The ruling part is still reeling from the fallout with war veterans in July which led to the severance of their long relationship with the former liberation movement, which dates back to the difficult days of the country’s liberation struggle.
Mugabe and Zanu PF got a rude shock when war veterans served divorce papers on the nonagenarian a few months ago after growing frustrated with their worsening lot, 36 years into the country’s independence.
War veterans had been one of Mugabe’s strongest pillars of support, playing particularly significant roles to keep the nonagenarian in power in the hotly-disputed 2000 and 2008 elections which were both marred by serious violence and the murder of hundreds of opposition supporters.
Apart from the country’s dying economy, Mugabe is also struggling to keep his ruling Zanu PF united as serious ructions, which analysts say have been caused by his unwillingness to name a successor, rock the party.
Last week, Zanu PF was hit by fresh turbulence when the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (Zacc) swooped on Higher Education minister Jonathan Moyo during a politburo meeting with an arrest warrant, following still to be tested charges of defrauding the Zimbabwe Manpower Development Fund (Zimdef) which falls under his purview.
Moyo and his Higher Education deputy minister Godfrey Gandawa are also facing serious money laundering and criminal abuse of office charges, including claims that the Zanu PF politburo member benefited from Zimdef donations that involved the purchase of bicycles which he donated to his Tsholotsho North constituency, which Zacc alleges was not above board.
The anti-corruption commission is also claiming that Moyo, Gandawa and Zimdef chief executive Frederick Mandizvidza are at the centre of the alleged multiple corrupt and fraudulent activities running into hundreds of thousands of dollars — while Moyo has accused it of being used by Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa to fight him.
Source: Daily News