ZANU PF Bulawayo province allegedly demanded cash donations from struggling companies to raise $65 000 for the party’s annual conference due in Mutare next month.
The party announced last week that it had raised $65 000 from well-wishers, but companies in Bulawayo claimed that they donated under duress.
Companies’ representatives, who cannot be named for fear of victimisation, said Zanu PF officials visited them making cash demands towards the former ruling party’s conference to run between December 15 and 19 at Marymount Teachers’ College.
The officials told the Zimbabwe Independent that Zanu PF provincial chairman Isaac Dakamela and his band sent out letters seeking donations and later made follow-ups in person demanding cash.
Zanu PF allegedly demanded amounts ranging between $5 000 and $10 000, depending on the size of the company, added the sources.
“Zanu PF officials visited a number of companies demanding cash to fund this year’s conference,” one of the sources said. “They would ask for money arguing that if indigenous and upcoming businesspeople, donated something, then the big companies should inject amounts of not less than US$10 000.”
But Dakamela this week denied that his party extorted money from the business community.
“There is nothing like that, we never forced anyone to donate. It’s a lie,” he said.
Some companies, the source said, donated cash to protect their business interests and fear of losing stakes under the much-criticised Indigenisation and Economic Empowerment Act.
“It’s like some companies donated because they hope to get favours from Zanu PF,” another source said. “Their main fear is the indigenisation policy and some believe aligning to President Mugabe’s party would save them.”
The indigenisation laws provide that local Zimbabweans should own a 51% stake in foreign-owned entities with a value of U$500 000 plus. Critics say the policy may scare away potential investors.
In an interview on Tuesday, Zanu PF spokesman Rugare Gumbo denied that his party was forcing businesspeople and villagers to donate towards the conference, saying those who gave cash and goods were “traditional well-wishers”.
Earlier this year, there were reports that war veterans forced families in rural Masvingo to contribute $20 per family to fund the conference. The war veterans were said to be asking for the cash donations from the already suffering rural populace, which they threatened with unspecified action if they did not comply.
“Conference preparations are going on well and various sub-committees are working tirelessly to make the gathering a success. The cash demands stories are rumours to soil our conference plans,” said Gumbo.
The cash-strapped Zanu PF will host a national fundraising dinner on Wednesday in Harare to seek funds to boost its poor coffers.
The December conference is expected to endorse Mugabe as the party’s candidate for possible 2011 polls. Mugabe was elected during the 2009 extra-ordinary congress.
Past Zanu PF conferences have been used to rubberstamp Mugabe’s candidacy for elections, which critics say were rigged since 1980.