Beware the bribes of March
. . . chiefs, headmen lured through vote-buying
CHIEFS and village heads are set to receive a one-off Covid-19 allowance backdated to May 2022 which is essentially yet another vote-buying exercise by the Zanu PF government to win the support of 26 000 traditional leaders countrywide ahead of this year’s general elections.
The windfall payments were announced early this week by the ministry of Local Government and Public Works’ communication and advocacy director, Gabriel Masvora, in a statement. He said the payments have since been approved and will be distributed through the Salary Services Bureau.
“The ministry has now approved that the village heads receive US$50 per month as the Covid-19 allowance, and it will be backdated to May last year,” Masvora said.
“Village heads approached the ministry and argued that they have been playing a major role in the fight against the pandemic, hence they deserved to receive the allowances.”
Masvora said the government has also approved a medical aid facility with the Premier Service Medical Aid Society (Psmas) for the traditional leaders.
“Government will pay 80 percent of the cost. Chiefs will contribute US$3, sub-chiefs US$2 and village heads US$1 per month towards the medical aid facility,” he said.
Recently, President Emmerson Mnangagwa, who will be pitted in the presidential elections with archrival Nelson Chamisa of the Citizens’ Coalition for Change, handed over vehicles to 38 newly installed chiefs during the annual chiefs’ conference held in Bulawayo, in another vote-buying effort.
In another development last week, civil servants such as teachers who play a critical role in elections as presiding officers, got a 100% Zimdollar salary increment, according to a statement from Finance ministry permanent secretary George Guvamatanga.
Police, who provide security on election day, reportedly got a 400% salary hike.
Guvamatanga also announced an increase in the cushioning and Covid-19 allowance from US$200 to US$250 across all sectors of civil servants, excluding the health sector.
In the education sector, Guvamatanga announced a US$80 teaching allowance for every teacher, indexed to the interbank rate and paid in the local currency.
There was also an increase of the cushioning and Covid-19 allowance for government pensioners from US$90 to US$100 and a promise of free primary education up to a maximum of three children at government schools for teachers as well as a funded funeral insurance framework for the rest of civil servants.
As reported by The NewsHawks last week, Zanu PF has resorted to its traditional vote-buying tactics ahead of the elections. Traditional chiefs last week were pampered with all-terrain vehicles in a development that re-ignited concerns that rigging mechanisms of the next elections are already in operation.
On Thursday this week, Anti-Corruption Trust of Southern Africa (ACT-SA) director Obert Chinhamo told The NewsHawks that in some areas such as Gokwe, chiefs have already begun campaigning for Zanu PF due to the trinkets from the government.
“We have cases where chiefs openly chant Zanu PF slogans at rallies in Gokwe and this latest vote buying which forms part of electoral corruption that must be investigated is worrying.
“When there is vote buying there is no guarantee for free and fair elections and a few months into Zimbabwe’s next plebiscite, the current developments are worrying,” he said.
According to the constitution, traditional chiefs must be apolitical.
Village heads are traditional leaders who perform a variety of legislative, administrative and ceremonial duties determined by tradition but they are also expected to be apolitical.
However, Zanu PF has for long used them to advance sectarian politics and intimidate the opposition.
A couple of weeks ago, the government parcelled out ambulances emblazoned with big portraits of Mnangagwa, which is again tantamount to vote buying.
Before that, Zanu PF officials had been busy on the campaign trail dolling out more goodies, with an outstanding incident being that of an unidentified man who was caught on camera distributing cash in anticipation of votes in Zanu PF’s primary elections.
There has also been distribution of chickens, fertilisers and drilling of boreholes by Zanu PF functionaries in vote-buying tactics. In the rural areas, the ruling party has of late been distributing food in a partisan way to starving villagers which manifests itself in the carrot-and-stick approach where there is both inducement and coercion.