GOVERNMENT and Zanu PF programmes have become difficult to distinguish in the third phase of the farm mechanisation programme launched last week. The programme has been criticised as a vote-buying exercise by the ruling party to sway voters ahead of the March 29 harmonised elections. “In my view, the whole point is that we are in an election period,” said John Makumbe, a political analyst. “Any programmes such as farm mechanisation are vote-buying by Zanu PF using state resources to do so and making the political field uneven.”
Makumbe said the distribution of equipment and farming implements under the programme was likely to benefit supporters of President Robert Mugabe, thus helping his re-election bid.
“It is typical of Zanu PF to abuse its incumbency to benefit its members in every election contest. In any normal democracy, that would not be allowed,” he said.
Nelson Chamisa, spokesperson for the Morgan Tsvangirai-led MDC, said the opposition party had problems with the farm mechanisation programme, food distribution and national holidays and institutions bearing a strong Zanu PF signature.
“The problem with such programmes is that they are stuck in the jaws of partisan politics. That is our fundamental bone of contention. There should be a difference between the party and the government, regardless of the fact that the politics of the former influences the policies of the latter. That is true democracy,” Chamisa said.
Former chairperson of the parliamentary portfolio committee on Public Accounts and deputy secretary-general of the Arthur Mutambara-led MDC, Priscilla Misihairabwi-Mushonga, said the timing of the exercise was suspicious.
“If anything was messed up with the farm mechanisation programme, it is the timing. We all smell a rat because the mechanisation programme has come just three weeks before elections. It was not strategic, the Reserve Bank governor (Gideon Gono) really messed up,” said Misihairabwi-Mushonga.
Denford Magora, spokesperson for presidential aspirant Simba Makoni, said his grouping was concerned at the extent to which Mugabe’s government was buying votes.
“As far as we are concerned, this latest bit on farm mechanisation is blatant vote-buying. It has nothing to do with land and agrarian reform and Makoni has stressed of late that Zanu PF is out to buy the support of not only the top echelon in the party and government, but also of suffering Zimbabweans,” Magora said.
Zanu PF spokesperson Nathan Shamuyarira refused to comment.
“I cannot comment on what the opposition says, go ahead and write what you want and fill your pages. We know that you and the opposition are bedfellows. Why should I authenticate their claims,” he said.
Information minister and government spokesperson Sikhanyiso Ndlovu could not be reached for comment with his secretary saying he was locked up in meetings yesterday.
Though no senior party or government official was clad in Zanu PF regalia during the launch, its slogans were chanted together with the raised fist – a Zanu PF trademark. Zanu PF national commissar Elliot Manyika belted out tunes used in the Zanu PF campaigns.
Mugabe told guests at the function that he needed to secure re-election for his government to carry out plans that would augment equipment received by intended beneficiaries.
The government distributed 600 tractors, 680 motorbikes, 3 000 grinding mills, 5 000 generators, 460 mechanised ploughs, 470 mechanised harrows, 95 planters and 20 combine harvesters.
Also distributed were animal drawn equipment which included 33 000 scotch-carts, 26 200 cultivators, 1 000 planters, 50 000 ploughs and 60 000 harrows.
The government also bought 304 buses under the District Transportation System Scheme with 35 buses being allocated to each province, while major hospitals and referral centres got 24 buses.
Beneficiaries will also get 3 000 heifers with the two Matabeleland provinces – a cattle ranching region – getting 500 heifers each, while the remaining six geographical provinces got 350 heifers each.
Mugabe said his government intended to focus on dams and irrigation facilities, but said he could only do this if the electorate rallied around him. His speech had marked references to Zanu PF’s electoral campaign.
“That must be an area of emphasis and I promise you, we will emphasise. But we must win the elections first and not lightly, but win them resoundingly so that the British can feel the heat,” he said.
Mugabe also said the farm mechanisation programme was “announcing with an irreversible finality that nyika yadzoka (the land is back).”
The Zanu PF’s manifesto clearly states that the party would use its victory in the March elections to reinforce the permanence and irreversibility of the “land revolution”. It also claims that the coming election will be an anti-British election.