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Africa News of Tuesday, 10 August 2021

Source: theeastafrican.co.ke

Government accused of 'bribery' in early 2023 Zimbabwe campaigns

President of Zimbabwe, Emmerson Mnangagwa President of Zimbabwe, Emmerson Mnangagwa

President Emmerson Mnangagwa of Zimbabwe's use of "soft" power to courting of the opposition has been termed abuse of power, after he gifted them vehicles.

Mnangagwa is pulling all stops ahead of what could be a tough re-election campaign in 2023 as he seeks a second term. He succeeded the late Robert Mugabe through a military coup in 2017.

A June Afrobarometer poll showed that 67 percent of Zimbabweans believe that the country is “going in the wrong direction” under the 78-year-old ruler’s leadership.

Analysts say President Mnangagwa is using a carrot and stick approach in his push to stay in power beyond 2023 and the dishing out of cars to 16 opposition leaders under the Political Actors Dialogue (Polad) platform as part of the strategy to divide the opposition.

The president handed over Isuzu D-Max twin cab vehicles worth $1.14 million to the 16 opposition leaders.

He said they could use the vehicles for “political work or development work,” adding: “In term of regulations in the public sector, after three years we will then review and make sure that they can belong to you.”

They said as the elections draw close, the government will intensify its efforts to close the space for the main opposition party, the MDC Alliance, which is also being denied funding from the Treasury.

Not eligible

Alex Magaisa, a Zimbabwean constitutional law expert based in the University of Kent, said none of the opposition leaders given cars by President Mnangagwa were eligible for State funding.

“Government spending public funds to buy vehicles for the co-opted losers in Polad is arguably a breach of the Political Parties (Finance) Act because it is disguised financing of ineligible political parties,” Dr Magaisa said.

None of them qualify to receive public funding under the legislation.

“Under the law, the minimum qualification for a party to receive public funding is that it must have earned at least five percent of the total number of votes cast in the previous election.

“None of the Polad parties are eligible. Only two parties, Zanu PF and MDC Alliance, qualified in 2018.”

President Mnangagwa set up Polad soon after the controversial 2018 election where he narrowly defeated Nelson Chamisa of the MDC Alliance, who rejected the outcome citing alleged rigging.

He said Polad would be a platform for dialogue for rival political parties, but the MDC Alliance refused to be part of the body saying, President Mnangagwa was using it to avoid genuine talks to solve Zimbabwe’s long running political crisis.

The fringe opposition parties that form Polad won less than five percent of the vote in the last elections.

“(President) Mnangagwa is using Polad as an avenue to by-pass the law on political funding. This is unethical and illegal,” Dr Magaisa said.

“The vehicle scheme is an abuse of public funds to reward co-opted politicians.

“What’s the point of the political financing law if public funds can be channeled to the undeserving through Polad?

“There are good legal grounds to challenge this breach and abuse of public funds.

Fadzayi Mahere, the MDC Allliance spokesperson, accused the Polad members of taking “trinkets” as rewards for supporting President Mnangagwa’s regime.

“The MDC Alliance will never join Polad,” Advocate Mahere said.

“It’s not the function of a legitimate opposition party to take trinkets in exchange for cheerleading autocracy.

“We continue to hold the regime accountable, demand better lives for the people, and push for reform in all areas of governance.”