HARARE: The ruling ZANU-PF party wants to spend $8 million on a special congress meant to endorse President Mugabe as its leader and candidate for the elections expected in 2018.
If the party is to be believed, the congress is meant to endorse President Robert Mugabe as leader and candidate for the 2018 elections. If so, $8million sounds a bit too much for a meeting just to state the obvious.
ZANU-PF secretary for finance, Obert Mpofu, said the money would be raised through donations, dinners, a raffle and other fund raising schemes.
The party, according to its own accounts, is virtually insolvent. Last year, the ZANU-PF Central Committee report showed the party was $19 million in debt. Membership card sales, a key revenue stream, were down a remarkable 73 percent. The party even had a $1.2 million phone bill. Its commercial enterprises are insolvent, the report said.
It will have to seek donations, mostly from the shakedown of private companies and individuals, who will be asked rather nicely to show their patriotism, or else.
“We will be talking to individual companies or individuals for their support. As a mass party, we are convinced that the generality of people, including companies, will support this worthy cause,” Mpofu told reporters.
That an insolvent ZANU-PF still plans to spend $8 million for a single event is a reflection of how it has also managed the national purse.
A sum of $8 million translates to $800 per delegate. That is about double a government’s worker’s salary spent on each delegate over three days. As an example of how figures are often just thrown around without basis, just two weeks prior, ZANU-PF had said the now cancelled Gwanda annual conference would cost $6 million.
Clearly, there is no real appreciation of the value of money at ZANU-PF, and it shows in this inflated congress budget just as it does in the party’s running of the economy.
To show just what a waste of $8 million this would be, it’s important to put into context how $8 million has been spent elsewhere in Government and commerce.
The $8 million that ZANU-PF plans to raise is just short of the $10 million allocated in the 2017 national budget to pay school fees for half a million children whose families are on welfare. That $10 million is actually just 10 percent of what the Basic Education Assistance Module (BEAM) actually needs.Advertisement
Besides, we don’t know whether any of that money was actually disbursed. As a result, according to a recent ZimVac survey, 63% of pupils in the rural areas are being turned away for failure to pay fees.
These dropout rates are just a number now. Wait until we have a generation that is hungry and illiterate. Even ZANU-PF, which thrives on ignorance, won’t benefit from that.
Some more figures to put that $8 million into context.
The $8 million covers the entire amount of $6.9 million allocated to maternal and child health care programmes in the 2017 budget.
It is five times the $1.5 million allocated for operational support to tertiary institutions. It is four times what was set aside for stipends for college students.
If ZANU-PF does spend $8 million on congress, they would be spending almost the same amount, $9.8 million, that Government begged from UNICEF for child protection this year.
The $8 million is also what two fertiliser firms, Windmill and ZFC, each got for raw materials to supply fertiliser for the whole 2016-7 farming season.
It was reported recently that a new $70,000 dialysis machine sourced from Chinese donors for Masvingo General Hospital has been stripped of parts before it had even been installed. How many more could $8 million buy?
Executives at coal miner Hwange would be scratching their heads at this congress budget. They are begging the central bank for $4 million, half of the congress budget, to start underground mining and save thousands of jobs.
At Turnall, they need just $4 million, again half the congress budget, to keep the manufacturer of construction materials afloat.
Last month, Zesa paid $8 million to Eskom to save the country from power blackouts. Zimbabwe is now struggling to pay $5 million per week as agreed with the South African utility. ZANU-PF plans to spend $3 million more on its congress, over just three days.
Eight million dollars is also what IDBZ, the infrastructure bank, had to raise through a housing bond, part of a plan to raise money to build thousands of low cost homes.
Eight million dollars is also what Chitungwiza collected from ratepayers between January and August this year.
The congress budget makes a mockery of aid pleas. The $8 million is more than the $7 million that the EU has given to Zimbabwe to help support agriculture extension services. Congress will also spend more than three times the $2.5 million humanitarian aid that Zimbabwe sought from the EU earlier this year.
Eight million dollars is also the amount that the EU gave Zimbabwe late last year, from the reserve of the 11th European Development Fund, for drought relief. Sweden has recently paid $8 million into the Zimbabwe Resilience Building Fund to help the country support its poor.
USAID has paid the $8 million under its Feed the Future crop development programme, covering 15 districts across five provinces.
In the 2017 budget, basic health services for poor and vulnerable households got just an eighth of what ZanuPF plans to spend in December. One million is also what Government committed to support National Pharmaceutical Company (NatPharm), the company that supplies and stores drugs for public hospitals.
Speaking of drugs, Caps Holdings needs no more than $6 million to get back into business. Caps was once of Africa’s largest drug makers, but it has virtually collapsed and been taken over by Government. It now operates just one of its four plants.
This week, central bank said it was paying $4 million to pharmacies to import drugs each week. According to Ministry of Health data, $8 million is what was raised between January and July from the airtime levy to fund healthcare. That a broke ZANU-PF now plans to blow an equivalent amount over a few days of praise singing shows how little it knows about managing money.
Eight million is the kind of money that desperate businesses would be glad to lay their hands on. For instance, it almost matches the $7.7 million pre-tax profit that Pick n Pay made from its rest of Africa division in the last half year.
ZANU-PF’s congress budget is $2 million more than what OK Zimbabwe, the country’s largest retailer, toiled to make in profits for the whole of last year.
And $8 million is what contractor Yellow River Consultancy of China needs to pay suppliers and continue work at Gwayi-Shangani Dam, a dam first mooted since 1912.
Do you know that $8 million can build a small power plant? Power company ZPC is looking for an investor to commit $8 million for the Tsanga Power station in Manicaland, according to a schedule of planned projects on its website.
But ZANU-PF wants to spend the equivalent cost of a power station over a few days of political bootlicking.
Eight million is the same amount that Government begged from millers to refurbish worn out grain silos. There is an $8 million loan that Government is expecting from the Abu Dhabi Fund for Development to fund an irrigation scheme.
While it is not a political party’s job to fund welfare and national production, one cannot ignore the indecency of trying to spend so much in the midst of such widespread lack.
There is nothing a congress can decide that Mugabe cannot do all on his own, given the power he has amassed for himself. ZANU-PF doesn’t need a special congress, and yet wants to spend millions on it.
Crucially, coming from a party that is itself broke and survives on grabbing State funds and forced donations, ZANU-PF’s plan to spend $8 million on a needless meeting shows why the economy it runs is where it is.
Just as it does in Government, this yet again is just ZANU-PF wasting money that it does not have, on things that it does not need.