By Fungi Kwaramba
The Morgan Tsvangirai-led MDC — which has not been spared by the economic meltdown — has hit hard times, casting doubts over its capacity to withstand the well-oiled Zanu PF machinery in the 2018 elections.
The country’s biggest opposition party, whose leader is the only one to have beaten President Robert Mugabe in an election since independence but could not garner enough votes to enable him to form a government in 2008, has sent an SOS to members of the public and its traditional donors to give it a helping hand.
Only last week, the Deputy Sherriff raided the opposition party’s headquarters at Harvest House and took an assortment of furniture over a $108 000 debt owed to ex-workers.
The party is also struggling to pay its workers, including complying with statutory obligations such as payments to the National Social Security Authority.
MDC spokesperson Obert Gutu confirmed to the Daily News that the party is going through financial difficulties and revealed that it is currently owed in excess of $2 million that should come from the Political Parties (Finance) Act.
In terms of the Act, political parties that secure at least five percent of the total votes cast are entitled to receive funding from Treasury.
At the moment, only Zanu PF and the MDC qualify for funding under the Act.
Treasury has, however, been unable to release the funding because of poor revenue inflows that have resulted in government staggering salary payments for civil servants.
Gutu told the Daily News yesterday that Treasury has been extremely uncooperative when it comes to disbursing money owed to the MDC, suggesting Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa and his team could be withholding payments to cripple their rivals.
“We last received money from Treasury several months ago and naturally, this adversely affects our operations as a political party,” said Gutu.
“However, the MDC is a massive organisation with millions of supporters who have been bankrolling the party’s operations. We are the best hope for the people of Zimbabwe and I would like to take this opportunity to most sincerely thank all our supporters and other stakeholders for solidly standing with us through thick and thin,” he added.
Chinamasa could not be contacted for comment at the time of going to press as he was not picking up his phone.
To fund its activities, the MDC relies on money provided by Parliament under the Political Parties Finance Act; subscriptions from its card-carrying members and donations.
Owing to the difficult operating conditions, it has been difficult for party faithful and donors to keep the MDC well-oiled.
MDC deputy treasurer-general Charlton Hwende indicated last week that several people and companies have offered to help the struggling opposition party.
“Thanks to those who are pledging to donate to us desks and chairs. Your efforts are welcome. We still need more and we will shame the regime and open our doors for party business on Monday,” wrote Hwende on his Facebook wall in the aftermath of the ransacking of their offices by the Deputy Sheriff last week.
The Deputy Sheriff’s removal last week of MDC furniture at Harvest House headquarters came after ex-worker Sally Dura — along with 15 other ex-employees — won an arbitration award for $600 000 for unfair dismissal.
Following the award, the MDC is said to have appealed and subsequently lost the appeal at the Labour Court.
The applicants then applied for the quantification of the award.
Dura is owed up to 27 months’ salary arrears, damages for 36 months and other benefits, but the opposition disputes her claims.
In 2015, the Deputy Sheriff raided Tsvangirai’s residence in Highlands and the party headquarters but failed to attach any property. This was after the MDC reportedly terminated contracts of 13 security aides in August 2010 before the Labour Court reversed the decision and ordered the party to reinstate them with full benefits.
Judge Justice Priscilla Chigumba ordered the party to pay a five percent interest on the varying amounts awarded to the employees in addition to the legal costs.
The Deputy Sheriff left Tsvangirai’s house and the party headquarters empty-handed after the MDC produced a court order staying the execution.
The former Prime Minister, who is battling colon cancer, was in 2015 also issued with summons from a bank over a $60 000 loan facility he had failed to service.
While the MDC is struggling to finance its programmes, its main rival — Zanu PF — has splashed millions on vehicles and with its leader, President Robert Mugabe, traversing the length and breadth of the country, Zanu PF is already sounding war drums ahead of next year’s crunch elections.
And with Zanu PF boasting of a war chest that also includes its access to State institutions and personnel, analysts said the opposition faces a herculean task ahead.
The situation for the MDC has been worsened because of donor fatigue and a series of blunders over the years, which includes its poor performance in the unity government of 2009-2013; Tsvangirai’s sex scandals and mismanagement and corruption blighting MDC-run councils.
According to the MDC leader’s former advisor, Alex Magaisa, the opposition will struggle to end Zanu PF hegemony because of resource constraints.
He said while opposition parties have traditionally relied on donor support, that source of funding appears to be drying up.
“A combination of donor fatigue, misappropriation and misallocation of resources and the never-ending divisions and squabbles in the opposition have contributed to the current parlous state of affairs,” said Magaisa.
“This lack of resources in the opposition, compared to Zanu PF’s access to abundant resources from both the public and private sector, is probably the single biggest impediment to change in the next elections. In light of this, one would expect the opposition parties to be more imaginative when it comes to fundraising.
“However, over-reliance on donor support in the past seems to have affected the opposition parties’ fund-raising abilities,” said Magaisa.
MDC insiders said the party was trying to lobby through the Speaker of the National Assembly Jacob Mudenda to compel Chinamasa to release the outstanding portion of their funds.
Contacted for comment yesterday, Mudenda referred questions to Chinamasa who was not picking up his phone. Daily News