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Zanu-PF manipulates Govt structures to abuse public funds

by Staff reporter
24 Mar 2024 at 15:00hrs | Views
The ruling party Zanu-PF is allegedly using government structures to manipulate councils to advance the ruling party's programmes.

This was evidenced by the mystery surrounding a meeting that took place at Masvingo Polytechnic on March 03 2024 where the party allegedly used government structures to call for a meeting to facilitate payment of allowances to people especially councilors who came for the meeting.

It is yet to be ascertained whether the meeting was solely a Zanu-PF event or that the ruling party hijacked a government programme and turned it into party business as some voices of authority are conflicting.

More shocking however are the utterances made by Zanu-PF Provincial Chairperson Robson Mavhenyengwa who, clearly grappling at straws tried to sanitize the blatant abuse of ratepayers' funds by saying it was due procedure for councils and parliament to fund party activities.

"Councils are allowed to give councillors allowances when they attend such meetings and the same applies to parliament and senate," said Mavhenyengwa.

Opposition and independent councilors must have unknowingly or knowingly fallen into the trap, as they also collected allowances for a meeting they did not attend, but their principle fell short as they also partook in the fleecing of ratepayers just like their ruling party counterparts.

In composition of the invited people, it indicates that it was a government event since government officials like the District Development Coordinators (DDC) and local government officials were officially invited.

However, almost all councilors, MPs and Senators were wearing Zanu-PF regalia, with the revolutionary party slogans being chanted throughout. Coupled with this was the presence of Mavhenyengwa on the programme, who gave welcome remarks, reinforcing the event being purely partisan.

One council official said his local authority was invited together with all councilors and procedurally they had to pay transport allowances but were shocked to arrive at the meeting only to see the majority of invited guests wearing party regalia and speakers chanting Zanu-PF slogans.

"We received communication form the Provincial Development Coordinator (PDC)'s office in Masvingo that there was a government meeting where the Minister of Local Government wanted to see all councilors and management.

"Naturally, that's council business and we had to pay our councilors' travelling allowances, However, when we arrived we were shocked to see that people were wearing party regalia and there were slogans.

"We are not Zanu-PF employees but local government employees, so we advance government programmes not party issues be it Zanu-PF or any other party, so if it was party programme we would not have been invited.

"If it is the party that needed us they could have used their structures to invite us so that we decide whether or not we could go, but when you are invited from the PDC's office there is no way you can avoid going," said the official who refused to be named.

Permanent Secretary for Masvingo Provincial Affairs and Devolution (formerly Provincial Development Coordinator) Dr Addmore Pazvakavambwa said the meeting was a government programme, which was why the invitations were like that.

"The meeting was a government programme and was headed by the Ministry of Local Government and the guest-of-honor was its Minister Winston Chitando.

"President Emmerson Mnangagwa launched a programme called ‘Call to action,, no compromise on service delivery' in Harare, so this meeting was a follow up to the national launch where the responsible minister was taking it down to the provinces so it was a government programme. I am however not privy to the details of who attended or who did not," said Dr Pazvakavambwa.

Asked whether it was allowed for councils to pay allowances to councilors for party programmes, Dr Pazvakavambwa said that could best be answered by the responsible ministry, saying his office only links with Local Government Ministry on devolution issues since the projects are implemented by local authorities.

"The Minister of Local Government is the right person to answer that. However, I would want to believe that the councilors were paid because the programme was a government programme and that's why the Minister of Local Government was the main speaker," said Dr Pazvakavambwa.

When Mavhenyengwa was contacted for comment on the sidelines of the meeting last week, he told this publication that the meeting was purely Zanu-PF where they were whipping their elected members to work hard.

He said there was no way CCC councilors would have been part of the meeting because Zanu-PF only had authority over its members and did not have authority to whip people from other political parties.

With a straight face, the Zanu-PF provincial chair went on to endorse the abuse of government structures by claiming that councilors were entitled to get allowances when they go for their party activities, further lying through his teeth saying that it was even legitimate at Parliament and Senate.

"The event was a Zanu-PF program where we called all our councilors, MPs, and Senators among others, where we were whipping them into line and calling them to action.

"It is allowed for them to get allowances from council when they come for such meetings and the same happens even at Parliament. If the opposition employees got allowances for the same programme maybe they did not know because they were not needed, we cannot whip them because they aren't ours," said Mavhenyengwa.

Ironically, MPs and Senators who attended the meeting confirmed the lawmakers did not receive a dime in allowances from parliament as Mavhenyengwa purported, with one MP saying he only heard councilors were paid but they were not.

"No MP received any allowance. We attended using our own resources and we only heard that councilors received allowances from their councils. We did not bother also because we don't know how they operate," said the MP.

Efforts to get a comment from the Minister of Local Government and Public Works Winston Chitando were futile as he instructed this reporter to send questions on WhatsApp but failed to respond to them until time for publication. Repeated efforts to call Chitando failed to yield results as he was not answering his cell.

Prominent lawyer and former Masvingo City Mayor Collen Maboke had however earlier told TellZim News that Mavhenyengwa was wrong in his assertions about policymakers being entitled to allowances when attending party activities, saying the Urban Councils Act was very clear on where and when allowances are to be disbursed.

"The Urban Councils Act is very clear on that. It's illegal for councils to give allowances to councilors when they go for their party business. They only get allowances when dealing with service delivery issues which is council business. What the councils did was wrong because that is clear abuse of ratepayers money," said Maboke.

He also said if the opposition councilors were aware that it was not government business they were not supposed to accept the money for them to be able to hold council to account but it was difficult now that they are accomplices.

Opposition councilors also further breached the law by not attending a meeting to which they had received allowances, on the pretext that it was a Zanu-PF meeting, which defies logic as they just pocketed free funds.

To further expose the policymakers' lack of integrity, one councilor said they claimed allowances because they believed it was a government program, but when they found out it was not, they did not make an effort to return the money.

"We are not allowed to demand allowances when doing any other business that is not related to service delivery. We get those allowances when traveling on council business. However, on this one, at first, we thought it was a government programme, but we later learnt that it was a party thing. In that case, who would return the money?" the councilor said.

Opposition councilors were accused of aiding Zanu-PF to abuse council and public resources after accepting the travel allowance to a meeting that they did not attend. Speaking to TellZim News, some of the councilors said they were tricked into believing that the meeting was a government meeting, only to realize later that they had been tricked after receiving the allowances.

Some even claim they only realized after getting to the venue, seeing the majority of guests clad in Zanu-PF regalia that they had been tricked.

"We did not know it was a party function, we only realized when we got in town seeing our fellows from Zanu-PF taking off jackets and revealing their party regalia. When we queried we were told that we should ask the Town Secretary or Council Chair which we did.

"They both said they received communication that said the program was a government programme. We then asked them to share the communication with us but they failed and we concluded that they had tricked us," said Councilor Philemon Muchaindepi of Chiredzi.

Masvingo and Zaka RDCs' opposition councilors however collected the allowances fully aware that the meeting was a Zanu-PF event, as evidenced by Masvingo District Coordinating Committee Chairperson Tawanda Dube, who is also a councilor when he communicated in the council official WhatsApp group that the event was purely Zanu-PF and everyone was supposed to come wearing party regalia.

The whole scenario has opened a can of worms on the state of affairs in local authorities, some of which have been caught on the wrong side of the law after allowing council resources to be used for partisan activities.

Former Chiredzi Town Council Chair Francis Moyo, who is currently under fire by graft body Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (ZACC) once had the local authority probed by the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Public Accounts over his use of a council vehicle to attend former President Robert Mugabe's birthday celebrations at Great Zimbabwe Monuments, after the vehicle got involved in an accident severely damaging it.

The local authority was said to have used council funds to repair the vehicle, an issue that became contentious during the oral evidence sessions conducted by the Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee where officials from Chiredzi Town Council were called to give testimony.

Sources however said the issue was resolved after officials from the local authority shifted blame to the late Town Secretary Charles Muchatukwa whom they said had authorized the transaction.

Source - TellZim News