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Mwonzora forks out ZW$2m for flopped rally

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Mwonzora forks out ZW$2m for flopped rally

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LESS than 500 people attended MDC-T faction leader Douglas Mwonzora’s 26 March by-elections campaign launch at Zororo Grounds in Highfield, Harare, last Saturday, but this was by no means due to a lack of effort on his part.

DESIRE CHIWASHIRA

After all, there was a lot at stake. Mwonzora was keen on showing that he is a popular opposition figure who will be a force to reckon with not only in next month’s by-elections but also during next year’s harmonised elections.

The dismal turnout, however, highlighted that Mwonzora, his MDC-T party and so-called alliance partners, do not command the popularity they claim.

It has emerged that Mwonzora pulled out all the stops in his quest to attract a bumper crowd at the rally, including hiring buses to transport party supporters, sympathisers and anyone who cared to attend. The logistics cost ZW$1.5 million.

But the buses found a few takers.

Mwonzora hired 20 buses in total, each at a cost of ZW$75 000.

A quotation for the 20 buses signed by T Makuku and seen by this publication shows that on 11 February, Mwonzora was charged ZW$75 000 per Hino bus by Mak Trans Logistics that trades as  Makuku Bus Services, to transport MDC supporters “from constituencies around Harare to Zimbabwe Grounds”.

In addition, MDC-T sources told The NewsHawks that Mwonzora had also spent close to ZW$500 000 in hiring a public address system and on other logistics in a bid to make “a huge statement of intent”.

The owner of the buses, Tsikirirai Makuku, confirmed providing transport for the opposition but said, in the end, he provided less than 20 buses because some are contracted to Zupco.

“Let me check with my people in Harare because I am currently at the farm, but I can confirm that my buses were hired,” Makuku said.

MDC-T officials said other transporters were engaged to ensure there were adequate buses.

The officials said the party had hoped that its rally would be attended by thousands hence they hired buses.

“As it is, the party paid for nothing because there were no people to ferry. The idea had been to make a huge statement of intent given that we have been accused of working with Zanu PF and having no supporters so the buses were supposed to transport people from all over Harare province to the rally.

“It was a huge disappointment because we could not reclaim the money back since the transporter had availed the buses and purchased fuel,” a national standing committee member said.

In a statement at the weekend, the party denied that its rally had flopped in spectacular fashion, claiming instead that 5 000 people attended.

Mwonzora’s party is contesting the polls under the MDC-Alliance banner after controversially snatching the name from its former leader Nelson Chamisa who now leads the Citizens’ Coalition for Change (CCC).

The majority of by-elections were occasioned by the recall of some MPs and councillors countrywide by Mwonzora on allegations of hobnobbing with his erstwhile colleague, Chamisa, while a few others were a result of the death of office holders.

At that rally, most of the people were clad in red T-shirts emblazoned with Morgan Tsvangirai’s portrait while only a few donned Mwonzora’s white branded T-shirts.

The high-quality PA system churned out Paul Madzore’s songs at the rally. Madzore is a member of Chamisa’s CCC.

At its peak, under Tsvangirai and later Chamisa’s leadership, the MDC attracted tens of thousands of supporters at its rallies, especially in Harare and other urban centres which have, since its formation in 1999, been its bastion of support.

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