THE government’s recent disproportionate pay hike for civil servants is essentially a vote-buying gimmick by the ruling Zanu PF to win over the support of public sector workers ahead of the August general elections.
Civil servants such as teachers and police play a critical role in elections as presiding officers and security personnel. This week, in a move tantamount to vote buying, the government announced through Finance ministry permanent secretary George Guvamatanga a 100% Zimdollar salary increment.
He also announced an increase in the cushioning and Covid-19 allowance from US$200 to US$250 across all sectors, 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 moribund local currency.
There was also an increase of the cushionng 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 rest of civil servants.
Last week, reports emerged that the government had also increased salaries of police by 400% before the latest increment was made public.
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 reignited concerns that rigging mechanisms of the next elections are already underway.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa, who will contest the next presidential elections with arch rival Nelson Chamisa of the Citizens’ Coalition for Change party, handed over vehicles to 38 newly installed chiefs during the annual chiefs’ conference held in Bulawayo.
Anti-Corruption Trust of Southern Africa (ACT-SA) director Obert Chinhamo warned that the government’s continued link to reports of vote buying may taint the credibility of the coming polls way before the elections are actually held.
“Election observer missions normally come when dates for the polls are announced. However, we have already seen several cases of vote buying which are in violation of electoral laws. It is a scenario that is undesirable for a constitutional democracy country like Zimbabwe.”
“WE implore Zec [Zimbabwe Electoral Commission] to wake up from its slumber and begin to show teeth and strength in combating vote buying which is tantamount to electoral corruption,” he said.
Recently, 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 in the campaign trail dolling out more goodies, with the recent 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 again vote-buying tactics. In the rural areas, the ruling party has lately 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.
According to the constitution, central government is mandated to take a leading role in food aid distribution but Zanu PF has been using the obligation to harvest votes. 38% of the rural population, which translates to about 3.8 million people, will face hunger this year, according to government statistics.
A recent report by the Zimbabwe Civil Society Anti-Corruption Coalition, and other concerned civil society organisations raised grave concerns against acts of vote buying in the country which it described as electoral corruption.
“Our understanding of electoral corruption is that it is the manipulation, abuse or illegal interference with a conducive electoral environment, legal and policy frameworks, management modalities, voters, processes, the voting, outcomes and other related activities around the electoral cycle by state and non-state actors to give advantages to one political player over others.”
“We are concerned that electoral corruption is rampant, appears as if it is normal and that it has flourished with impunity.”
“We are gravely concerned that acts of electoral corruption have deleterious effects on development since it leads to conflicts and controversial electoral outcomes. Apart from destroying economies and societies, it subverts and undermines the principle of free choice thereby rendering an election open to contestation.”
“In addition, electoral corruption jeopardises the freeness and fairness of elections, triggers physical fights, killings, and human rights abuses as witnessed in Kenya and Zimbabwe. It is also important to note that it leads to apathy triggered by the understanding that participating in elections that are often rigged is useless since that will not bring out changes expected by a voter,” reads part of the report.
While vote buying is taking place, there are other rigging mechanisms that are already underway such as manipulation of the delimitation exercise which saw parliamentary seats in opposition strongholds being suppressed while increasing them in the strongholds of Zanu PF.