PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe has reportedly roped in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and China to sponsor his glitzy campaign amid reports that the veteran leader has also turned to his innermost circle — the Presidential Guard — to co-ordinate his campaign.
By John Nyashanu
Highly-placed sources told NewsDay this week that early this year, the veteran leader clinched a deal with the DRC in which Zimbabwe supplies the war-torn country with ammunition in exchange for campaign material, which includes T-shirts, berets, bandanas, caps, wrappers, manifestos and calendars.
In exchange, the sources said, the DRC is receiving arms of war from the Central Ammunition Distribution in Darwendale just outside Harare.
The campaign material is being dished out at Mugabe’s rallies, and questions over the source of the material have been raised especially given that Zanu PF is reportedly broke and unable to pay its employees.
“Some members in the unit (Presidential Guard) have over the past months been burning the midnight oil moving election material from Harare International Airport to Zimbabwe House and State House, the President’s official place of residence. This has resulted in some soldiers who had been deployed at other units for training purposes being recalled to Harare,” said the source.
The development flies in the face of calls by Sadc for security personnel not to delve into politics.
Zanu PF spokesperson Rugare Gumbo, however, said last night that the material was coming from party “friends”.
“That is hogwash. We have our friends who have assisted us. I don’t know about those deals you are talking about,” Gumbo said.
But according to sources, the yellow-bereted army unit (Presidential Guard) has since March, taken over the distribution of the material coming from the DRC and China and the latest consignment is said to have arrived last Friday.
Planes from the DRC are reportedly landing at Manyame Airbase in Harare while those from China allegedly land at Harare International Airport, with consignments weighing an average 80 tonnes.
For years, Zimbabwe has enjoyed cordial relations with the DRC and China. Information at hand shows that when Zanu PF first took delivery of the consignment, 48 Presidential Guard officers were in charge of the project. The number had since risen to 81 under the leadership of a senior army officer, identified only as Major Chechetu.
Sources said Zanu PF had contracted logistics company Swift to transport the materials to other centres throughout the country.
Albert Ushe, CEO of Pioneer Corporation Africa which owns Swift Transport, could neither confirm nor deny his company’s alleged engagement with Zanu PF.
“We are a haulage company and we deal with many customers. We do not discriminate against any customer and we charge commercial rates,” said Ushe, apparently avoiding the question of whether they had a standing arrangement to transport Zanu PF campaign material.
Sources, however, said every Swift-delivered consignment was accompanied by a member of the Presidential Guard.
DRC ambassador to Zimbabwe Mwanananga Mwawampanga denied his country was involved in the sourcing of Zanu PF campaign material: “Your sources are lying. DRC is not supplying any party with campaign materials. We do not interfere with any country’s electoral processes.”
Army articulated vehicles, according to the sources, are being used to transport the material to guest houses at Zimbabwe and State Houses where Zanu PF candidates in the harmonized polls would come and collect their allocations.
Zimbabwe National Army (ZNA) spokesperson Lieutenant Colonel Alphios Makotore, however, denied the allegations.
“Members of the Presidential Guard are not responsible for transporting Zanu PF campaign materials from Harare International Airport to Zimbabwe House nor anywhere else. The allegations are not true,” said Makotore in a statement to NewsDay.
He also refuted allegations that Mugabe had deployed army generals to each of the country’s 10 provinces to drive his campaign programme.
“It is also not true that army generals have been deployed countrywide to spearhead Zanu PF campaigns. These are mere allegations and the ZNA takes exception to such falsehoods being levelled against any of its members,” he said.