Zanu PF’s hall of shame

November 13, 2012 at 10:10 am Leave a comment

By Fungai Kwaramba

Emmerson Mnangagwa (left) and Didymus Mutasa
HARARE – For most struggling Zimbabweans, it is an unimaginable expense:
$6,5 million on a conference centre for Zanu PF’s 13th national people’s
conference.

It gets worse when reports suggest the party is being funded by Marange
diamonds, which citizens are praying could be used to turn the country’s
fortunes around.

The construction of the imposing convention hall, 15km along the Gweru-Mvuma
Road, deep in the countryside of Midlands Province, has included offices for
the presidium, a giant stage, a 5 000-seater convention hall,
state-of-the-art public address system and other gizmos and amenities to
carry the party’s “very, very important visitors” into the five-day
conference which opens on December 4.

But while Zanu PF maintains the convention hall is a legacy project
bankrolled by well-wishers, this has failed to quell Zimbabweans outrage
over the high cost of the project, along with reports that millions more
dollars whose sourcing remains a secret will be spent on accommodating the
thousands of delegates.

Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s MDC is pushing for a parliamentary probe
on the “election monster.”

The legislature could be asked during the fifth session of Parliament to
probe funding for the convention centre, MDC officials say.

Asked about the $6.5 million convention centre, Zanu PF administration
secretary Didymus Mutasa did not attempt to deny the cost of the convention
centre.

Instead, he talked vaguely about “exaggerations” and denied it was a sign of
misplaced priorities.

“People are not struggling because of the hall; people are suffering because
Tsvangirai brought sanctions to this country,” Mutasa told the Daily News on
Sunday.

“He is still calling for sanctions without any embarrassment, if anyone
should be ashamed it is Tsvangirai.

“There is absolutely no connection between the hall and the lack of service
in the country. That hall is in fact about the comfort of the people who
come to the conference.”

Mutasa, who is also the minister of State in the President’s office, said
Zanu PF had rich friends.

“Money does not rain from the skies, mari inotsvagwa muminda, mumaindustry
uye kubva kumadzisahwira (we get our money from agriculture, industries and
also friends),” said Mutasa.

Zanu PF, founded in 1963, has an official headquarters in Harare, in
addition to several conference facilities at its disposal countrywide.

Housing and Social Amenities minister Giles Mutsekwa, the Defence secretary
in Prime Minister Tsvangirai’s MDC, called the expenditure on the Zanu PF
conference centre not only morally wrong and unjustifiable given the country’s
social needs, but also possibly illegal.

“When I heard about the construction of the hall in Gweru I was shocked,”
Mutsekwa said.

“Zanu PF is our partner in government and they claim that they represent the
people (but) for them to splash such an amount on a hall is embarrassing. I
am struggling to give people houses because the government is broke. I do
not know where they are getting money to buy such a structure.

“If I had been given that money, I could have built houses for more than 300
people, the Willowvale flats I built cost $8 million,” added Mutsekwa.

Zimbabwe remains one of the world’s most unequal countries, with millions
living in poverty and post-independence frustrations regularly boiling over
into street protests, especially by women’s groups such as Woza.

Critics of Zanu PF say the party and its wealthy leaders have lost touch
with ordinary Zimbabweans and the imposing Gweru structure is one such
example of a leadership at tangent with the populace.

The majority of households are struggling with lack of access to basic
services such as water while millions remain on the housing waiting list.
The UN says 1,6 million are in dire need of food assistance and are not
getting it.

David Coltart, minister of Education, Arts, Sports and Culture and a member
of Welshman Ncube’s MDC, whose ministry is surviving on the goodwill of
donors to bankroll its programmes, said Mugabe’s party has warped
priorities.

“We have a warped system in Zimbabwe, a history of misplaced priorities;
this hall in Gweru and the military college in Mazowe constructed to the
tune of $100 million,” he said.

“If that money had been channelled towards the rehabilitation of schools,
then we would have improved the learning institutions.”

Government in 2010 signed an agreement with China to use Marange diamonds to
pay off the $100 million for the Zimbabwe Defence College, which was
completed well ahead of schedule.

Schools around the country are in a state of disrepair with children having
to learn seated on hard floors or perched on stumps under the cover of
trees.

Coltart, whose ministry received only $8 million for this year, said he has
engaged the ministry of Finance over lack of funding.

“I have talked to Finance minister Tendai Biti over budget allocation to the
education sector and I should say he was very sympathetic.

“Unfortunately he has little room to manoeuvre. We need a complete change in
our priorities” said Coltart.

Coltart spoke as Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation chairperson
Godwills Masimirembwa admitted this week that a paltry $150 million out of a
projected $600 million from Marange diamonds was going to be remitted to
Treasury by year-end, raising questions about the flow of diamond money.

Opposition Zapu leader Dumiso Dabengwa, an ex-Zanu PF politburo member, said
one day the truth will haunt his former party as questions on the source of
the money to bankroll such a huge project rise.

“It remains a question of where is Zanu PF getting this money,” Dabengwa
said. “One day the truth will come out to haunt Zanu PF. Whoever the donors
are will be known and that will be embarrassing.”

The fallout over the $6,5 million conference centre comes at a politically
sensitive time for Zanu PF, which is seeking re-election in forthcoming
watershed elections.

Dewa Mavhinga, a civil rights campaigner and political analyst, said Zanu PF
should do some soul searching.

“The first question for Zanu PF is: where is the money coming from?”
Mavhinga asked. “But a more important question that calls for Zanu PF
leaders to do deep soul-searching is: why throw such lavish and obscene sums
towards the construction of a hall when the people of Zimbabwe have numerous
urgent and pressing needs including the resuscitation of a collapsed health
sector; provision of clean water in the cities; or general support to an
ailing economy.

“This flamboyance and extravagance points to a party out of touch with the
people; a party living in cloud cuckoo land,” added Mavhinga.

 

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