Blessings Mashaya 12 May 2017
HARARE – In a move that has been roundly criticised by the opposition as
“2018 bribes”, President Robert Mugabe’s stone-broke government is to
splurge millions of scarce United States dollars on new vehicles for
This comes as Zimbabwe has just been officially ranked as the poorest
country in Africa, at a time that the nation is also experiencing a severe
shortage of cash.
Speaking in Parliament on Wednesday, Rural Development minister Abedinico
Ncube revealed that the government would be buying new cars for the
country’s 226 chiefs, as part of the fulfilment of promises that Zanu PF
made in the aftermath of the 2013 elections.
“It (buying new cars) is something we are working on. We are going to
give them (chiefs) very shortly… all 226 registered chiefs will get the
cars,” Ncube said, responding to questions on how much the government had
budgeted for chiefs’ to have vehicles before the expiry of the current
Apart from splurging on new cars for the traditional leaders, the
stone-broke government will also continue to pay village heads $25 in
“They are not given salaries, but this is an allowance. Every village head
is entitled to be given an allowance.
“For those who are not receiving their allowances, they must approach the
relevant authorities . . . those who are not registered they must also do
the same for them to get their allowances,” Ncube said.
Traditional leaders have often been accused by the opposition and rights
groups of aiding Zanu PF to retain power through terror campaigns and
partisan food distribution in rural areas.
Opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai recently warned that Mugabe and his
warring ruling Zanu PF – fearful of receiving an even bigger poll
shellacking than they got in 2008 – were already working feverishly to
steal next year’s eagerly-anticipated elections.
Tsvangirai’s concerns emerged as the MDC president was concluding his tour
of Mashonaland East, where he interacted with traditional leaders – who
opened up to him on how they were already being roped in by Zanu PF to
become part of the apparatus to ensure victory for the ruling party in
Traditional chief after traditional chief had apparently told Tsvangirai
during his tour of the restive Mashonaland East Province, which is
traditionally a Zanu PF stronghold, that they were being forced to not
only join the ruling party, but to also lead its cells and wards – and to
actively work to help rig next year’s polls.
“There is a plan by Zanu PF to steal next year’s elections. We have been
on the ground here in Mashonaland East and what we are seeing and hearing
is that Zanu PF wants to steal the next elections again, after they took
over the BVR (biometric voter registration) process, in addition to
commandeering chiefs, village heads and headmen on board this devious
“The fearful village heads all said they were forced to be chairpersons of
Zanu PF’s cells. That way, Zanu PF will coerce them to frog-march people
to vote for the ruling party.
“So, the sum total of Zanu PF’s ploy is that it is assimilating
traditional leaders into its partisan structures, abusing them in the
“However, we will do all that we can to ensure that traditional leaders
are not abused and absorbed into Zanu PF structures? Indeed, the rights of
traditional leaders must and will be observed,” Tsvangirai said then.
Zimbabwe is deep in the throes of a huge economic crisis which has led to
horrendous company closures and the consequent loss of hundreds of
thousands of jobs.
At the same time, economists have said that poverty levels in the country
are skyrocketing, with average incomes now at their lowest levels in more
than 60 years – with more than 76 percent of the country’s families now
having to make do with pitiful incomes that are well below the poverty