MDC-T, the biggest opposition party in the MDC Alliance, has been hampered in its election campaign by lack of funding, in sharp contrast to the ruling Zanu PF which is riding on a massive war chest topping US$200 million after receiving money from China, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Equatorial Guinea.
By Wongai Zhangazha
A threadbare budget has proved to be a big hurdle for the MDC-T ahead of the make-or-break polls set for July 30, as the opposition party is still trying to secure funds for marketing, recruiting polling agents, volunteers, posters, billboards, door-to-door fliers and rallies, among other campaign things.
Zanu PF, by comparison, has a financial boost from the Chinese, who have also bankrolled its previous campaigns. Part of the US$200 million extended to Zanu PF was channelled towards procuring campaign material, including vehicles, bicycles, motorbikes and campaign regalia such as T-shirts, caps, cloth wraps, flags, wrist bangles and other material such as torches, kitchenware and sewing machines.
Zanu PF insiders last month told the Zimbabwe Independent that the security sector will also play a key role in funding the party’s campaign.
“There are slush funds from Treasury and security investments. This is key and includes paying for party candidates’ nomination fees, allowances for polling agents. There will be three agents per polling station: one inside, one outside and for relieving either the one inside or the one outside. The fourth is paid for by the party or candidate and that, too, is from donated funds,” a source said. “The security was also used to purchase vehicles for each of the 210 constituency candidates, 60 senatorial candidates and 60 women’s quota candidates.”
It is alleged that there are over 5 000 soldiers deployed countrywide. Parastatals have also been forced to donate cash and supplies to Zanu PF and the resources will be used mostly for media campaigns on radio, television and print media.
Private companies and individuals have also made contributions on top of the party’s official state funding.
While Zanu PF has a hefty campaign budget, the MDC-T is hard-pressed for resources. President Emmerson Mnangagwa has occupied most billboards in the big cities and rural areas, while the MDC Alliance candidate Nelson Chamisa is hardly visible, as if Mnangagwa is running a one-man race.
Former government spin-doctor Jonathan Moyo in April warned the MDC-T on his Twitter account to guard against getting excited about the huge numbers turning up at rallies, and instead focus on strengthening its structures.
“A rally isn’t a structure; 2. A generation isn’t a person; 3. In elections its Votes, Stupid; and a serious party must field 1 958 local government candidates and have at least 39 040 election agents to deploy 4 in each of the 9 760 polling stations (2013 figure)!” tweeted Moyo.
Sources said the MDC-T will struggle to find money to pay election agents given that it still has an outstanding salary dispute with its former and current employees. In addition, some disgruntled election agents deployed by the party in previous elections have complained they felt cheated by the country’s biggest opposition party.
An MDC-T insider told this newspaper that while the party received US$1,8 million from Treasury as its share of the Political Parties Finance Act disbursement, the money has been gobbled up by outstanding expenses, including payment of salaries and debts.
MDC-T secretary general Douglas Mwonzora yesterday admitted that his party was facing funding challenges. He, however, said party programmes were continuing.
“We have been financing our campaign program through donations from our friends, party members and well-wishers. But obviously Zanu has more resources than us, it abuses state resources to finance its campaign,” Mwonzora said.