WASHINGTON DC —
Political parties taking part in Zimbabwe’s general election this year are expected to spend millions of dollars in a nation where the state-controlled national statistics agency says about 8.2 million people are poor.
The three top contending parties say they need a total of $230 million for election campaigns as lack of funds devastates small parties. All the parties are struggling to raise money, just a few weeks before the polls.
Zimbabwe’s Political Parties Finance Act stipulates that a party that garners at least 5 percent of the vote in a previous election is eligible to receive public funds.
Only Zanu PF and the two formations of the Movement for Democratic Change have enjoyed this privilege following the 2008 general election.
Most political parties in the country still depend on handouts from generous individuals, companies, and private organizations. The law does not allow all parties to receive foreign funding.
This has seriously affected operations of most parties, says Paul Themba Nyathi, treasurer of the MDC formation led by Professor Welshman Ncube.
Mr. Nyathi says money is needed for holding rallies, producing election material and other necessities.
The MDC formation led by Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, which has also benefited under the Political Parties Finance Act, is believed to be looking for $80 million for its 2013 election campaign.
The party’s organizing secretary for Bulawayo province, Albert Mhlanga, says candidates are expected to use their own resources and donated funds for election campaigns.
Mr. Mhlanga, who is the MDC-T candidate for Pumula constituency in the city of Bulawayo, says most candidates are finding it difficult to raise money for funding their campaigns.
And for presidential candidate Dumiso Dabengwa’s Zapu, it is not possible for the former liberation party to raise $5 million budgeted for the polls.
Zapu recently failed to pay for a rally which was supposed to be held at Bulawayo’s White City Stadium. The Zapu leader says this is a clear indication that the party’s coffers are empty.
He is not alone in this predicament. Another presidential candidate, Kisinothi Mukwazhe of the Zimbabwe Development Party, is also failing to raise funds.
Zanu PF’s Joram Gumbo, a parliamentary candidate in Mberengwa West constitueny, has no sympathy for such candidates and parties.
The former Zanu PF parliamentary chief whip says parties and individuals without money should never take part in national elections.
But like other candidates, he is expected to fork out personal finances to run his election campaign.
Parties who benefit under the Political Parties Finance Act are not obliged to account for funds received from the state and local donors. The law does not compel the smaller parties to account for any funds raised in an election period.
Although it is unconstitutional for parties to receive foreign funding, the MDC parties and Zanu PF have been accusing each other of getting money from international donors and nations like China, United States, Britain and others.
Zanu PF has also been accused of abusing diamond revenues from the gem-rich Marange fields for financing its activities. The party has dismissed these claims as unfounded.