BY NQOBANI NDLOVU/MOSES MATENGA
Any attempts to seize the bullet proof car that MDC Alliance supporters want to buy for their leader Nelson Chamisa will be illegal and an abuse of power, legal experts have warned.
Chamisa’s supporters were spurred to raise US$120 000 to buy the security vehicle for the country’s mainstream opposition leader after the vehicles he was travelling in were repeatedly attacked by Zanu PF supporters during a countrywide tour some weeks ago.
After the fundraising initiative surpassed the target last week, some Zanu PF sympathisers, including Information secretary Nick Mangwana started suggesting on social media that the crowd funding fell foul of the Political Parties Finance Act.
The law prohibits Zimbabwean political parties from receiving external funding.
Constitutional law expert Lovemore Madhuku told The Standard that the fundraising by the MDC Alliance supporters was above board.
“There is nothing wrong with party supporters coming together to buy their leader anything,” Madhuku said.
“These are ordinary people who can come together and buy their leader a vehicle. They are not foreigners and this is not foreign funding.
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“It is not prohibited under the said Act and it will also be evil if anyone prohibits that initiative by the supporters.
“It’s like when you are on a campaign trail and someone wants to cook for you or provide transport for you, it is not prohibited and cannot be prohibited by the Political Party Finances Act or any other law.
“There is nowhere they can impound this. It will be an abuse of power and very illegal.
“There is no provision that allows that. When a vehicle comes, as long as it pays duty and all those other things, they cannot do anything.”
Bulawayo-based lawyer Nqobani Sithole said as long as the vehicle was declared, transported legally into the country and custom duties due are paid, there was no reason to confiscate it.
“The mischief of the Political Parties Finance Act is to avoid clandestine donations,” Sithole said.
“However, if it is declared, and there is no violation of any law, for example the Foreign Exchange and Money Laundering Act, then that kind of donation will be above board.
“The law provides for this, but that can be an exception as long as it is declared. At the end of the day, whatever resources parties get should be made clear.
“There should not be any clandestine dealings, and sources of finance should be known by the regulating authorities.”
As of last week, the fundraising campaign titled Let’s Replace the People’s President car had surpassed its target of US$120 000.
Mangwana suggested on Twitter that there was reasonable justification to seize the car in the same manner the late former MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai’s BMW X5 was impounded by authorities in Lupane, Matabeleland North province in 2008.
The car has been parked at a police station since then.
“The country has a history of respecting its laws and foreign cars that break our laws or cars that illegally find themselves on our roads face a certain fate,” Mangwana tweeted.
Accompanying the post was Tsvangirai’s impounded vehicle.
Mangwana was unreachable yesterday when efforts were made to get his comment.
MDC Alliance spokesperson Fadzai Mahere refused to comment about the vehicle.
But she said the citizens’-led initiative was evidence enough of the commitment by Zimbabweans to free themselves from the yoke of Zanu PF rule.
“The symbolism of what is taking place is extremely important.
“The point is clear that a message has been sent to the regime that the citizens are ready to converge and fund the struggle,” Mahere said.
“Citizens are converging, and this is a clear statement that they are rallying behind Chamisa, and that they have utter faith with the MDC Alliance, and they will do anything to sacrifice for the struggle so that we archive our target for the 2023 election; the six million vote, a clean sweep in urban and rural councils. That is what the citizens are communicating with this initiative.”
Meanwhile, MDC Alliance secretary-general Chalton Hwende said the party was pursuing the release of Tsvangirai’s vehicle in Lupane and other vehicles in Gweru.
“The refusal by the state to release MDC vehicles is actually one of the ways they are using to rig and manipulate the elections because they must not deny the resources to use for purposes of campaigning.
“That car does not owe anything to the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority, we paid everything,” Hwende said.
“There is no reason except politics why the police, at the instigation of Zanu PF, is refusing to release the car.
“This happened when we also tried to import T-shirts for our campaign in 2018, locally they have taken our offices, our money and they do not want us to have anything at all to use to campaign, so it is part of their broader strategy to manipulate the election.”
Police impounded Tsvangirai’s South African registered bullet-proof BMW X 5 towards the June 2008 elections claiming that the car was not properly imported into the country.
The vehicle was donated to Tsvangirai by a South African friend of Adrian Espag following reports of an assassination plot against the once popular opposition chief.