BY BLESSED MHLANGA
PRESIDENT Emmerson Mnangagwa’s broke government is reportedly expected to blow an unbudgeted $4 million on its anti-sanctions campaign to be rolled out in all the 10 provinces on Friday.
This comes at a time government is at loggerheads with its restive workers, who have threatened to down tools starting today demanding salary adjustments to cushion them against the runaway inflation.
The event has been planned to be run concurrently in other Sadc member countries after the regional bloc resolved at its last summit in Tanzania in August to campaign in solidarity with Zimbabwe.
Zanu PF secretary for administration Obert Mpofu yesterday said everything was on course, but could not be drawn into disclosing the budget for the exercise.
“It’s well on course and the stakeholders met Thursday, to deal with the issues of anti-sanctions march, that is the churches, the non-governmental organisations, government and all those who are involved in the process. They have had meetings and they continue to meet in preparation for that great day, a national day,” he said.
Zimbabwe Concerned Citizens Forum (Forum) national co-ordinator Taurai Kandishaya said they had mobilised over 200 000 people to take part in the march in Harare alone, while others will take part in similar activities in various towns and cities.
“At least 200 000 will add their voice in Harare alone, but the march is going to be done across the country and, as you are aware, this is a national crisis that will take every understanding citizen to self-fund,” he said.
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Kandishaya pleaded with government to pour in resources to ensure that a solid statement is delivered to Western countries that have maintained frosty relations with the Zanu PF regime.
The anti-sanctions campaign, which has received backing from other Sadc countries, is aimed at piling pressure on the West — particularly the United States (US) and European Union (EU) — to lift sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe nearly two decades ago, and renewed recently.
Donald Trump’s US administration has maintained that the restrictive measures were only targeted at individuals and companies.
In a recent interview with Alpha Media Holdings’ HStv, EU ambassador to Zimbabwe Timo Olkkonen poured cold water on the Sadc anti-sanctions lobby, saying the planned solidarity marches would not help change the EU bloc’s position on Zimbabwe.
“Well, Sadc has the liberty of stating what it wants, that is their political statement that they came out with recently. When you look at the factual assessment about the facts, because in the Sadc communiqué, they were talking about the economic effects and the unfairness of it and from that perspective, we will not be convinced because we were just outlining the limited effect of the economic restrictions that the economic measures would have,” he said.
The bulk of the campaign money, according to government sources, will be channelled towards provision of food, public address systems and transport logistics for the thousands of mainly Zanu PF supporters who would be bussed to various centres throughout the country.
“The event will not consume less than $4 million in transport costs, food and loss of production costs given that no business will happen in most government offices on the day. Ministers, top civil servants and security personnel will be deployed for the event,” a government bureaucrat involved in the logistics committee told NewsDay yesterday.
Government this year hired an American consultancy firm, Ballard Partners, to spruce up its image at $500 000 a year with the contract running from February 13, 2019 to February 13 2021.
The owner of the consultancy firm, Brian Ballard, is a top fundraiser for Trump’s election campaigns.
The cash-strapped Mnangagwa administration has also hired another American consultancy firm, Avenue Strategies Global LLC, for US$1 080 000 to lobby the United States government to drop sanctions against the southern African nation.
The agreement signed on April 5, 2019 by chief executive officer Barry Bennet, will remain in full force and effect until April 5, 2020, but may be extended with written consent of the parties.
Opposition political parties have, however, said they will not join the march, describing it as a waste of taxpayers’ money.
MDC vice-president Lynette Karenyi-Kore called on Mnangagwa to address the human rights issues first before the West could consider lifting the sanctions.
“Who will help this country if we are busy killing our own people, abducting doctors, rights activists and ordinary people in the middle of the night? We need a government that does not impose sanctions on its own people for it to be taken as an equal on the world stage,” she said.
MDC youth deputy chairperson Cecilia Chimbiri said: “The biggest sanctions this country is facing is misgovernace, corruption and oppression all epitomised by the Zanu PF-led Constitutional Court government.”
Opposition National Patriotic Front spokesperson Jealousy Mawarire said the money being blown on anti-sanctions campaigns could better be used to fund social services.
“For sanctions to go, the government has to respect the Constitution. They have to stop abducting their own people and allow freedom of expression, freedom to demonstrate and to stop this rule by the gun. The marches will not help change anything,” he said.