Besides their established campaigns to prevent MDC-T voters registering using Nikuv’s multi-million-dollar expertise, abusing the law and using the military to terrorise, Robert Mugabe and Zanu PF have also set up a brazen vote-buying scheme.
The scheme extends from gifts of packs of salt to poor villagers to ministerial Benzes and suburban houses for those hurriedly appointed as High Court judges.
Such generosity has not been known of Mugabe, prompting many, including the MDC-T to question the motive.
“Does Mugabe think he can buy my vote with a torch?” said 43-year-old Levy of Gutu, who was an expectant 10-year-old when Mugabe came to power in 1980. “This man is evil. He ruined my life, now he comes to mock me with a cheap Chinese torch. Of course, I took the torch because this is money he stole from us, but come election day, I’ll vote for Morgan Tsvangirai.”
Zanu PF is in no way trying to hide its attempts to rig. Some of the vote-buying is even televised, such as Grace Mugabe donating groceries at a rally in Lupane in blatant violation of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) regulations. The ZEC, which is stuffed with Mugabe sympathisers, takes no action, despite having the power to disqualify candidates found guilty of such gross violations.
On Monday, local government minister and Mugabe’s trusted relative Ignatius Chombo directed local authorities to cancel ratepayers’ debts running into millions of dollars in an apparent attempt to sway hard-pressed urban voters in the MDC-T’s strongholds. The move will also cripple any incoming MDC-T administration as they will find the coffers dry.
The MDC-T secretary-general Tendai Biti told reporters that the appointment of the six High Court judges by Mugabe last week had come as a surprise to his party. He said Mugabe was now a lame duck president and should not make substantive appointments at this late hour in his presidency. In any case, the judges’ appointments were unprocedural and illegal as his party was not consulted as required by the Global Political Agreement. Analysts said by appointing pliant judges, Mugabe was securing his future against prosecution if he lost the election.
Biti said the government was also investigating another gross act, in which the state-backed Premier Service Medical Aid Society’s CEO Cuthbert Dube gave campaign donations at Zanu PF rallies.
It is not surprising to see MDC-T members wearing clothes emblazoned with Mugabe’s face. Refusing to take the Zanu PF regalia being forced on everyone is an offence, and refusing to put it on is an even bigger one. The clothes are made at Gushungo Clothing Line, which is owned through fronts by Mugabe’s wife, making it even more profitable for the ageing despot to force the party to print many outfits.
Just like the state broadcaster ZBC is doing its part on the propaganda front, all parastatals have been instructed to do their part in campaigning for Mugabe by offering their services free. It is, therefore, not surprising that the state bus company Zupco can display Mugabe’s campaign posters and are often commandeered to ferry passengers free of charge to the dictator’s rallies.
While Mugabe is distributing trinkets, he is also making bold promises which even the ordinary people he addresses know are unachievable. He is promising that, suddenly, he can reopen closed businesses and create millions of jobs. In the same breath, he is threatening to drive out foreign investors and banks, saying the 49 percent maximum shareholding they are currently allowed is “too much”. He is promising better services after overseeing the collapse of what was a model for Africa.
As Tsvangirai put it at a rally last week, “What can Mugabe achieve in five years, when he is 90 years old, that he failed to achieve in 33 years when he was younger?”
Many of those piling into his gifts at rallies are asking the same question. But, as a chilling warning, one woman died while scrambling for free Mugabe T-shirts last week.