BY NIZBERT MOYO
A leading election monitoring group has condemned Zanu PF’s alleged attempts to use medical drugs to influence the outcome of the Lupane East constituency by-election, saying the move violates the principles of democracy.
The Zimbabwe Election Support Network (Zesn) said it was disturbed by revelations that Zanu PF commissar Victor Matemadanda requested the Health ministry to supply clinics in Lupane East with medicines and drugs as part of the ruling party’s campaign.
A leaked letter by Health minister Obediah Moyo directing the state-owned pharmaceutical firm Natpharm to supply the drugs caused a stir recently with the main opposition MDC accusing Zanu PF of vote-buying.
“While Zesn acknowledges the right of political parties to solicit for votes during the campaigning period, this act violates the principles of democracy,” Zesn said in a statement.
“The network does not condone the trend of vote-buying using food aid and other resources meant to benefit all citizens with no affiliation to a political party in line with the constitution.”
Zesn said vote-buying includes “promising, offering or giving money, goods, services or other inducements such as promises of employment or special favours or treatmen to voters”.
“It is, therefore, disturbing to note that essential drugs and medicines, which should be readily available and accessible to every citizen, are now allegedly tied to a political party’s campaign for a National Assembly seat,” Zesn added.
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“Critical for a free and fair electoral context is a pre-election environment devoid of irregularities and malpractices such as vote-buying and the misuse of government resources where food aid such as maize and rice and other resources are being distributed along partisan lines.
“This inevitably creates an uneven playing field for political contestants.”
Health and Child Care permanent secretary Agnes Mahomva last week tried to extricate the ministry from the scandal by claiming that the supply of drugs to the clinics was part of a routine government programme.
However, in her statement she did not make reference to Moyo’s letter to Matemadanda.
In the 2018 elections, foreign observer missions and the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission condemned the use of food aid by Zanu PF to try and influence the outcome of the polls.
Meanwhile, MDC leader Nelson Chamisa will address two high-profile rallies in Lupane East ahead of the parliamentary by-election in the constituency on August 3 where the opposition party will try to wrestle the seat back from Zanu PF.
The seat fell vacant following the death of Sithembile Gumbo of Zanu PF in April. Both Zanu PF and the MDC have rolled out elaborate campaigns in the constituency in Matabeleland North.
MDC Matabeleland North provincial chairperson Prince Sibanda said members of the party’s standing committee had been deployed in the constituency to drum up support for its candidate Dalumuzi Khumalo.
“I can confirm that Chamisa will be visiting the constituency where he will hold rallies in two wards,” he told Sunday Southern Eye.
“As I speak, I am making final arrangements to book for the two rallies. On Saturday we had rallies in all the 14 wards in the constituency where all members of the national standing committees, who include the vice-presidents, were addressing rallies and preparing ground work for the president.”
Sibanda said the MDC was poised to win back the constituency it lost in 2002 in a by-election following the death of its MP David Mpala.
He said Zanu PF does not care about the people of Matabeleland North and only shows interest when it needs votes.
He castigated the Zanu PF government, saying it was taking people from the region for granted.
“Matabeleland people are dehumanised by Zanu PF as they only get drugs because they lost an MP,” Sibanda said.
“Zanu PF is only interested in getting votes from the people and does not care about them.
“This time we are prepared for them.”
Sibanda said MDC had also stepped up preparations for by-elections in Bubi’s ward 22 and Nkayi’s ward 23, which will also be held on August 3.