29 March 2018

Zimbabwe: Election Season Frenzy - It's Their Turn to Eat

The country was in the grip of a frenzy this week as politicians jostled for prime slots at the feeding trough.

Money is flowing in all directions on the political arena. MDC-T and Zanu PF have just received millions of dollars from the taxpayer via the Political Parties (Finance) Act which stipulates that any party that garners at least 5% of the vote in the preceding general election is eligible for state funding.

Donors, who constitute another major source of funding, are now pouring money into all sorts of parties. This explains the sudden sprouting of candidates and movements. Who does not want money? Even cyber warriors with no grassroots footprint are trying their luck.

Not to be left out, some wealthy individuals and private organisations are also loosening their purse strings and contributing to the steady flow of money to political parties.

The situation is throwing up bizarre spectacles.

Last year I spoke to a pro-democracy activist who told me that although she relished the prospect of running for office, she was not interested in joining political parties. She described party politics as disjointed, divisive and corrupt.

I was left bemused this week after hearing that she is now part of a movement of "independent" candidates. Interestingly, the movement has all the hallmarks of a political party. In other words, the activist is now part of a fully-fledged party, whether she is alive to this reality or not.

Jittery incumbents and aspiring candidates are not the only ones running helter-skelter as the election season hits top gear. There is an entire ecosystem of self-styled strategists, pundits and consultants who are eyeing a piece of the election pie.

In civilised societies, the funding of political parties is thoroughly scrutinised to ensure that mafia gangs, money launderers, smugglers and other kingpins of organised crime do not use politics as a conduit for iniquity.

We lack such diligence in Zimbabwe, where political parties are receiving money from all over the place--including corrupt and highly questionable elements who should never be allowed anywhere near politics.

The tragedy is that, as a direct consequence of the rotten conduct of political parties, corruption arising from those entities has now spawned a devastating menace for the entire nation. Political parties are incubators of corruption.

Leaders of political parties behave like feudal overlords. They grab party funds, spend lavishly on their concubines and are quick to show the middle finger to anyone who voices criticism.

Companies owned by some political parties have been looted bare by leaders who should know better. No action has been taken against the looters. But gullible voters expect the same politicians who have plundered party property to emerge as latter-day heroes and spearhead the fight against corruption at national level.

Deception has become a political survival strategy in Zimbabwe. When will voters wake up?

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