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MDC-T polling agents still unpaid for 2018 election

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MDC-T leader Douglas Mwonzora is agonising over outstanding allowances owed to thousands of polling agents hired by the party across the country for the disputed 2018 general election.

LIZWE SEBATHA
Mwonzora inherited the bill after assuming control of the party in December 2020 during an extraordinary congress where he contested against his deputy Thokozani Khupe, Morgen Komichi and Elias Mudzuri for the party’s top post.

Khupe had been interim president months earlier after winning a Supreme Court judgement to use the official name of MDC-T, a ruling that elbowed out MDC Alliance leader Nelson Chamisa as the opposition party president.

Chamisa opposed Khupe and, during the hotly contested 2018 national election, was the candidate of a coalition of political parties called the MDC Alliance that hired over 45 000 polling agents.

The polling agents remain unpaid to date, Mwonzora confirmed in an interview, but was non-committal as to when the outstanding payments will be settled.

“We want to be a party that fulfils its promises and we undertook that we are going to pay them, unfortunately the previous administration did not pay them. I want my administration to pay them,” Mwonzora said.

“It is a contractual obligation. We are going to be paying all those who were polling agents in 2018 irrespective of whether they have joined other political parties or not; and we are at this point and time asking the provinces to compile a list of those who were polling agents.”

Each polling agent was promised up to US$30 per day.

However, financial challenges beset the opposition MDC-T amid claims of misuse of party funds by Mwonzora.

In an internal memorandum to party members recently, Mwonzora denied that he has stolen ZW$6 million from party coffers. He said this accusation is peddled by “rogue youths” who have since left the party.

The MDC-T received ZW$14 million from the state under the Political Parties (Finance) Act in terms  of  which all parties that garner at least 5% of the vote in a general election share the sum budgeted for political parties each year in proportion to their votes. 

By-election results can alter those proportions.

In December, Mwonzora was accused of misusing the party funds as secretary-general with claims that he withdrew money from the party account without express authority from other leaders in the opposition’s standing committee.

“Some time in December 2020, MDC-T party was granted $14 million by the Government of Zimbabwe through the Political Parties Finance Act. The funds were deposited in MDC-T BancABC account number 50863225502015 Heritage Branch.

“On 18 December 2020, the accused person (Mr Mwonzora) transferred funds from MDC-T party said bank account into (Bell Petroleum BancABC account number 15104045502014). The funds were transferred in the following batches: $2 400 000, $1 755 000, $1 800 000 making a total of $5 955 000.

“The MDC-T party had no relationship or any contract with the said company and as such the accused person was stealing the funds from the party’s account.

“Furthermore, the funds transfer was not approved by the MDC executive. Total value stolen is $5 955 000 and nothing was recovered,” read a police report, CR: 2236/12/2020, filed against Mwonzora.
However, Khupe, who was the acting president then, absolved Mwonzora of the fraud allegation.

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