Grace Rallies: Need To Revisit Political Parties Finance Act

By Prince Tongogara

The ongoing extravagant Dr. Grace Mugabe “Thank You Rallies” across the country ahead of her appointment as Zanu PF secretary for Women’s Affairs in the politburo have shown what is wrong with the country’s political parties financing. Senior Zanu PF members have professed ignorance of the source of income and presidential spokesman was non-committing on the source leaving the doors wide open to speculation.

Dr. Grace has traversed the country in a presidential helicopter accompanied by a horde of cabinet ministers and staff from the President’s office. All senior civil servants in the provinces visited this far had been attending the ‘Women’s League’ events despite them being not official state business.

The cost to the State in lost man-hours, helicopter use, security, fuel, vehicle wear and tear, food and unlimited electronic broadcasts from the state television and radio is hard to quantify but can run into millions after the ten rallies.

Former Zanu PF Mashonaland West provincial chair and Mugabe relative Philip Chiyangwa on Monday chose to wade into the controversy by claiming to be chairing a private committee that fundraises for Dr. Grace’s political programme.

Chiyangwa told the Herald that, “I chair the committee on the funding of the First Lady’s programmes. We have sponsors, if there is something that has been said about the money, its private money.”

He added, “This is money nobody should even talk to me about, or ask me. It’s funds that will continue to flow until her programme gets to December.” 

Chiyangwa’s reasoning is very dangerous and a slap on all democracy loving people of Zimbabwe. It is wrong to assume that political parties should not be made to account the sources of their funding. The world over governments, Zimbabwe included, have enacted Political Parties Finance Acts. These are laws enacted to keep the wrong people like foreigners, triads, mafia, crooks, drug dealers and crooks from having a hold on politicians and ultimately governments.

It is worth mentioning that a decade ago, Chiyangwa was arrested on espionage charges and receiving monies from foreign governments. His accomplices then included Zimbabwe’s ambassador-designate to Mozambique Godfrey Dzvairo, Zanu PF foreign affairs director Itai Marchi, former Metropolitan Bank company secretary Tendai Edgar Matambanadzo, Zanu PF deputy security chief Kenny Karidza.

The Zimbabwe Independent newspaper then quoted intelligence sources that identified the SASS officer Welken as the contact who dealt with the Zimbabweans.

It is in this context that Zimbabweans have a right to know who funds who. It has even become more pressing in the past few years especially when allegations of people breaking the rules and getting away with it simply because they have funded Zanu PF. Names associated to Zanu PF funding although never publicly declared include millionaires John Bredenkamp, Nick van Hoogstraten and Billy Rautenbach.

These men have become very powerful and their presence is felt across the country’s economic sectors. They are into agriculture, aviation, mining, transport, banking, manufacturing, tourism and property. We will never know the extent of their investment on the Zimbabwe Stock Exchange because of corporate veils.

Rautenbach in particular has managed to arm-twist the Zanu PF government into accepting compulsory blending of petrol up to 20% (E20) since he invested into the Green Fuels venture at Chisumbanje. The project is ongoing despite environmental concerns and motoring industry objections.

Probably it is high time that parliament reviews the Political Parties (Finance) Act of 2001 that controls funding to political parties in Zimbabwe.

The Act in section 8 (2) speaks to regulations the minister of Justice should put into place to control funding to parties as well as the manner they should report their books of accounts.

“Regulations made in terms of subsection (1) may provide for— (a) prescribing the form of the application referred to in section four; (b) the form and manner in which records of donations shall be kept by political parties; (c) the keeping by political parties of proper books of accounts, the audit of the accounts of political parties, and the form, content and publication of statements of account s by political parties,” reads the Act.

Political parties here in Zimbabwe have not been made to account despite the existence of this piece of legislation and they continue to receive foreign funding indirectly despite proclaiming sovereignty.

Zanu PF national chairman Simon Khaya Moyo this year told the visiting Communist Party of China delegate that his party only triumphed in the July 31, 2013 general elections due to the Chinese support.

Khaya-Moyo told the Guo Jin Long led delegation that, “We received enormous support from the people of China and we really want to extend our profound gratitude.” he said.

It is an open secret that China provided all the election regalia, some posters and household goods that were dished with reckless abandon at all of President Robert Mugabe’s ten ‘Star Rallies’.

In conclusion, Parliament should once and for all deal with all the loop holes in the Political Parties Finance Act to protect the country’s sovereignty not only from foreign powers but also the crooked rich people in our midst who fund politics for their own selfish ends. The Dr. Grace rallies have shown how much people can pour resources into political projects but we are not sure when they will demand their pound of flesh from the politicians.