Zanu PF youths are allegedly demanding $1 each from Masvingo villagers as the party struggles to raise $800 000 for President Robert Mugabe’s 92nd birthday bash in the province, with the party only able to raise less than $150 000 in cash and pledges so far.
By XOLISANI NCUBE
Human rights advocacy group, Community Tolerance, Reconciliation and Development (Cotrad), yesterday claimed villagers and civil servants in the host province were being coerced into making cash contributions towards the celebrations, a charge Zanu PF has denied.
“The expensive birthday bash, which is earmarked for Masvingo, is underfunded and the Zanu PF apparatchiks are now employing thuggish fundraising tactics to raise the money,” the organisation claimed.
“Each homestead has been ordered to pay $1 with civil servants to pay $3 for the lavish bash, while those who resist have been threatened with unprecedented harassment.”
The human rights group said even districts, which are among the hardest hit by the drought, were being forced to contribute towards the event.
“Mwenezi district is currently facing severe drought and school closures due to high levels of school dropouts as young people migrate to South Africa seeking greener pastures,” Cotrad said. “As Cotrad, we categorically castigate the unwarranted forceful coercion and compelling of the Mwenezi citizenry and civil servants to contribute towards the presidential birthday bash.”
Zanu PF youth league secretary, Pupurai Togarepi yesterday refuted reports that villagers were being forced to contribute to the bash.
“That is a lie, it’s total fabrication. We are aware that things are hard for people, so we would not do that,” he said.
“For your information, farmers are donating whatever they have towards this birthday because they believe it is a birthday of an icon. We will use the little that we have at our disposal to celebrate this important day as the youths.”
Togarepi said they were a number of organisations and people who were making donations of their own free will.
“As beneficiaries of President Mugabe’s leadership and his vision of giving land to his people, we will celebrate his birthday in style, with or without money,” he said.
“We are not looking for money, but support from well-wishers to celebrate this day which is very special to us.”
Zanu PF is reportedly struggling to reach the targeted $800 000, with party sources saying the fundraising team had so far raised less than $150 000 in cash and kind, including pledges for accommodation for senior government officials and party functionaries who will attend the function and transport for the youths from various provinces.
According to the initial fundraising target, each province was supposed to raise at least $30 000 with the host, Masvingo, expected to raise $100 000, while the national fundraising team, mainly comprising of Zanu PF youth league leaders, was mandated to raise $400 000 towards the event.
Youth league secretary for finance, Tongai Kasukuwere said although most companies and traditional benefactors were hard-pressed to donate in cash, most of them had offered various services and goods to be used for the celebrations.
“We have some who are giving us hotel accommodation, some buses and trucks to ferry our people, tents, water, food and many other goodies. Yes, money is a challenge, as you know the state of our economy, but we getting help mostly in kind,” he said.
Opposition parties have criticised the holding of such a function at a time an estimated three million people were reportedly requiring urgent food aid following an El Nino-induced drought this year.