HARARE, October 12 (The Source) – In the early hours of August 10, 2014, before dawn, an angry Robert Mugabe was hunched over the podium, berating his senior lieutenants.
In front of him were thousands of hungry Zanu-PF youths, who had hardly been fed for the two days they had been gathered to pick a new youth leader.
“Why, why, why,” Mugabe thundered, demanding to know why a party as big as his had failed to fund the meeting. “What about the subscriptions from the people, where are they going? I am not happy.”
He then announced he was shipping in tonnes of sadza and 30 head of cattle, to wild cheers from his starving minions.
There was, predictably, an inquest. Why was Zanu PF broke?
“The fact is that the party is facing challenges of money,” Rugare Gumbo, then party spokesman, told the media.
It was an understatement. Several internal reports had revealed Zanu PF was broke, surviving on statutory grants and dwindling subscriptions from its impoverished members.
Supporters could no longer fund the party as a “considerable number of party cadres are reeling in poverty”, a 2014 central committee report had said. “Our traditional sources of revenue, namely subscriptions, membership fees and donations are severely affected.”
In 2014, the party was surviving on a $6 million bank overdraft. That year, the party spent $11 million against income of just $3,9 million. In its central committee report in 2015, the party reported subscriptions were down a further 65 percent. It could not even pay its phone bills and salaries.
Zanu PF tried to turn to its businesses for funding.
Through M&S Syndicate, Zanu PF had set up a network of commercial interests in the 1980s to fund itself. The interests range from home appliances manufacturer Tregers to airline catering firm Catercraft.
Zanu-PF also owns Jongwe Printers and several duty free shops, including some at Harare International Airport. The party also owned engineering company Mike Appel, and held some shares on the stock market.
But M&S was virtually insolvent, the 2014 central committee report said, as its subsidiaries were “either just breaking even or actually threatening to bring down the whole business unit.”
A plan was mooted to “transform M&S Syndicate into a well-managed corporate for 2016” and “grow the revenue base”, the report recommended. This has not happened.
So, with member subscriptions falling, its businesses in ruin and the list of “well-wishers” thinning, Zanu-PF is desperate for money.
So, what is a party to do when it is broke but still desperate to portray itself to the outside world, and to its supporters, as a big and unconquerable machine?
With its leader angry for having to dip into his own pocket, it was clear that whoever brought the most offerings to his feet would get the most rewards.
The only money within the reach of party officials were those tax dollars in state coffers, so they dived right in.
Over recent weeks, a political war has played out in public over the alleged abuse of public funds by Higher Education Minister Jonathan Moyo. While the controversy has given us great political theatre, the bigger story is the evidence we are being handed, showing how Zanu-PF groups are pilfering tax money to pay for their competing Zanu-PF activities.
It has been happening for a while.
In 2014, Deputy Energy Minister Munacho Mutezo was accused of stealing $40,000 from the loss making power utility ZESA Holdings. His angry denial was useful: he had deposited the money into the Manicaland Women’s League bank account.
“I did not source ZESA money for my own pockets. All donations, including the ZESA money went to accounts controlled by the leadership of the party,” he was quoted as telling a reporter at the time. “I am not accountable to newspapers, but to Zanu-PF. Were you told how all the money raised for the Zanu-PF 6th National Congress was sourced?”
Again, just as Mutezo did in 2014, Moyo’s anger has been helpful: he says he spent the money on party programmes.
The Zimbabwe Manpower Development Fund (ZIMDEF), under Moyo’s ministry, earns its money from taking a one percent training levy from companies operating in Zimbabwe. The money is meant to develop critical skills for the economy.
Despite many companies going under, ZIMDEF is still raking in good money. At the end of last year, ZIMDEF had total income of close to $50 million, total reserves of $73 million and cash of $5 million.
This was money just waiting for the taking, it appears.
So, when the Zanu PF youth league wanted fuel for its operations, 100,000 litres of fuel were signed off for the Zimbabwe Youth Council (ZYC). According to Moyo, that the fuel was for “transport to audit youth skills in construction industry.” The ZYC is supposed to be a government council for youths, but it is really a conduit of funding and patronage from government to the Zanu-PF youth league. It is doubtful any such “audit of youth skills” was ever carried out.
Those who wondered how a party that repeatedly reports losses in its financials was able to organise the “Million Man March”, a massive parade of thousands of party youths in support of Mugabe, got their answer. Some of that ZIMDEF money went to organise the march, Moyo’s deputy Godfrey Gandawa told investigators.
It was all part of ZIMDEF’s corporate social responsibility programme, he claimed.
Moyo helpfully volunteered on Twitter: “It was not a Zanu-PF event. It was a national event in solidarity with the President as Head of State and Government.”
We now also know that it was ZIMDEF money that funded First Lady Grace Mugabe’s rallies, sponsored Mandi Chimene’s war vets splinter group, and even used to print Zanu-PF membership cards.
Zanu-PF has no money of its own. Many of its leaders have no legitimate businesses viable enough to sponsor the party. ZIMDEF will therefore, sadly, not be the last state fund to be looted to fund Zanu-PF activities.
It is most likely that different ministers are looting state funds under their parastatals to drive the agendas of their factions, and curry favour with Mugabe or whoever they are loyal to.
In 2015, parastatals illegally forked out over $12 million dollars to fund broke parent ministries, according to the Auditor-General. Much of that money, without doubt, sponsoring Zanu-PF factional battles.
We had always known that Zanu-PF factionalism, by distracting government, was costing the economy. However, what we did not know enough was that the factional fighting is actually costing us money, directly.
The Zimbabwean taxpayer is paying for Zanu PF factionalism, literally.