It is being billed as the most important election in Zimbabwe since independence more than three decades ago, but that has apparently not prevented one disloyal politician from making a fast buck.
A member of Robert Mugabe‘s Zanu-PF party has reportedly been arrested for erasing the president’s face from campaign hats and selling them for $2 each.
The alleged cottage industry was revealed by the mines minister, Obert Mpofu, at a campaign rally in Bulawayo last Sunday, according to Zimbabwe’s NewsDay newspaper. He accused some senior party figures of hoarding campaign regalia instead of distributing it.
“When I was on my way here, I heard that a member from here was arrested after being found with caps for the party campaign in his house,” Mpofu was quoted as saying. “That person was scraping the president’s face from the caps and reselling them for $2.”
Party insiders identified the culprit as a member of the Zanu-PF provincial youth executive, NewsDay reported, but its chairperson, Mabutho Moyo, denied knowledge of the incident. “The same way you heard about the matter, is the same way I heard about it. I have not received any report so I will have to check with the provincial office to get accurate information,” Moyo said.
Zanu-PF caps and T-shirts are said to be in plentiful supply at rallies in the buildup to next week’s presidential election. The past year has also witnessed growing demand for the House of Gushungo clothing range that includes berets, T-shirt and golf shirt bearing the signature “RG Mugabe“. But less auspiciously it has been reported that money shortages are forcing Zanu-PF to recycle some regalia and posters from the last election with the year 2008 rubbed out.
Concerns about election irregularities are mounting with polling day just over a week away. An analysis of the electoral register by the Harare-based non-governmental Research and Advocacy Unit found that a million Zimbabweans who were dead or had left the country were still on the voters’ roll; the roll listed 116,000 people over the age of 100; there were 78 constituencies with more registered voters than adult residents; and two million voters under the age of 30 were not registered. Early voting for police officers was shambolic.
Mugabe’s challenger Morgan Tsvangirai of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) has warned the Zimbabwe electoral commission that he will be closely monitoring it to ensure a fair vote. State media and security institutions remain under Zanu-PF’s control and there have been reports of sporadic violence against MDC supporters.
On Monday South Africa‘s opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) became the latest organisation to raise the alarm over “serious irregularities” found by its election observers. It said: “Village constituencies are being coerced to vote for the Zanu-PF and threatened with a repeat of the pre-and-post 2008 election violence. A random register has been conducted by Zanu-PF agents to monitor voter trends in villages.
“In suburbs, townships, towns and cities, where people are more likely to support MDC-T, registration centres were very few and marked by long queues, resulting in fewer people registering; and security personnel including the police and the army are openly canvassing for Zanu-PF.”
The DA also criticised the South African president, Jacob Zuma, the chief regional mediator on Zimbabwe, for rebuking one of his aides for making “unfortunate statements” on Zimbabwe’s lack of readiness to hold the elections.