PRESIDENT Emmerson Mnangagwa’s financially struggling administration has given senior Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) directors US$350 000 housing loans each in a desperate bid to appease critical players in the electoral matrix ahead of the crucial general elections later this year.
General elections in Zimbabwe are usually run by security agencies in violation of the constitution and the law to protect the incumbent and status quo.
For decades now, given the conflation between the ruling party and government, Zanu PF has collapsed into state institutions and structures which continue to prop it up in elections, especially at the presidential election level.
The CIO plays a critical role in key elections which includes voter registration, voters’ roll preparation, doing pre-polling surveys, being embedded in electoral bodies to monitor and influence processes, accreditation and getting the results well ahead of everyone else for security reasons and ensuring they decide on time how to handle situations, especially if there is an unwanted outcome.
In 2008, a local journalist exposed a major electoral scandal in which the CIO worked with a top University of Zimbabwe academic to produce election surveys which were then falsely announced as a product of scientific scholarly research to manipulate elections.
In that case, the CIO had produced the report and given to the academic to announce as his own, predicting a victory for the late president Robert Mugabe.
The first CIO draft report had actually shown Mugabe losing, but it was considered politically unacceptable and a new one was done giving him marginal victory over the late main opposition MDC candidate Morgan Tsvangirai.
As things turned out, Tsvangirai actually defeated Mugabe in the first round of polling with 47.87% (which many believed was suppressed to ensure a run-off) to 43.24%.
The CIO and other security forces have agents embedded in the whole electoral process, including at the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec), particularly at secretariat level. The Zec secretariat is headed by Utloile Silaigwana, who was in the army. He took over as chief elections officer from the late Lovemore Sekeramayi, a former top CIO officer.
“There is a windfall for CIO. Senior directors who are regarded as deputy ministerial level are getting US$350 000 as housing allowances. District Intelligence Officers and above will get ZW$3 000 000, while those below have been given ZW$1 000 000 backdated allowances,” a source said.
“Besides that, an internal confidential circular has been written, saying no one is resigning. The memo basically says even those who have reached retirement can stay on until further notice.
This is a desperate bid to stop officers from quitting as they have been doing due to poor conditions of service. It’s also about elections.”
The cash-strapped government has continued splurging cash despite an outcry from a large section of impoverished citizens after authorities lavished each minister with US$500 000 and deputy ministers US$350 000 in housing allowances.
The funds were unbudgeted for. Legislators were also allocated US$40 000 each in November last year, sparking a major outcry, especially against opposition MPs who were accused of joining the gravy train.
The loans totalled US$14 million for all the 350 legislators.
Also late last year, the government began installing solar panels at homes of more than 100 government officials, commissioners and service chiefs at the cost of US$14 000 per unit to cushion them from rolling nationwide power cuts lasting up to 18 hours.
This came after the Zambezi River Authority ordered the Zimbabwe Power Company (ZPC), a Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority subsidiary to stop generating electricity at Lake Kariba.
ZPC exhausted its yearly water allocation. The installations were done at taxpayers’ expense.
Justifying the legislators’ allowances to The NewsHawks in December last year, the chairperson of the parliamentary welfare committee, Temba Mliswa, who is also Norton independent MP, said the allowances for ministers in particular were not budgeted for.
“Ministers got US$500 000 and deputy ministers US$350 000, but that was not budgeted for. MPs’ allowances were budgeted for. Besides the US$40 000, MPs also got US$50 000 for cars,” he said.
“We were supposed to get US$80 000, but we were given US$50 000. That means there is a balance of US$30 000. The accommodation issue for MPs is a serious matter that needs to be addressed.
“People must remember that for MPs this is not free money. These are loans guaranteed by our pensions. If you don’t pay back, you lose your pension. But for ministers, it’s a different story; that was not budgeted for.”
Opposition CCC president Nelson Chamisa however described the loans to legislators as a bribe, after which he slammed the government’s looting culture.
“Normally when they smear porridge around your mouth you will not have eaten and that is what has happened. Zanu PF people have been giving themselves a lot of money; ministers, deputy ministers. You go to the judiciary; you go to the other organs of the state; I will not mention, but, I have got all the details. You will be shocked to look at the money that they have been doling out and the trinkets that they have been giving,” Chamisa said.
“. . . but CCC were not supposed to drink from this poisoned chalice. They have joined the pioneer column, they have joined the gravy train and they have crossed the line. I told them that if you don’t act accordingly, you know what it means. The citizens are waiting for you and they are going to punish you and punish you heavily so that one is already catered for, I do not agree with it, I do not encourage it, I do not support it. I do not believe that people must be talking about their welfare when the nation is struggling, the way we are struggling.”
Chamisa added the funds could be diverted to the health sector, which is in dire straits.
“If you take US$40 000, I went to a hospital just this week, US$40 000 will do so much just to transform the outlook of our hospitals, in terms of linen, in terms of the beds that are broken. It’s a pathetic situation. The toilets are not functioning, there is nothing, not even boreholes, there is no water, but if you take US$40 000 it will do wonders just for a member of Parliament and for Parliament to then behave like it’s a bank or government has turned itself into a bank that is giving loans for me (it) defeats logic.”