Africa

Broke MDC ditched by donors

Harare Correspondent

Insiders say the troubled party is being starved of funds to force a change in its leadership.

Left begging: Morgan Tsvangirai has called on citizens to make donations to the MDC, but bankruptcy has left party leaders doubting whether the party's annual conference will be held at all. (Jekesai Njikizana/AFP)

The Movement for ­Democratic Change has serious financial problems and may not be able to hold its annual conference, it emerged this week.

Insiders said the party was broke, and had been abandoned by donors after its comprehensive defeat by Zanu-PF in last year's elections.

Donors are also said to have been angered by recent infighting with deputy treasurer-general Elton Mangoma, who called for leader Morgan Tsvangirai to resign, accusing him of failing to provide effective and strategic leadership. Mangoma was assaulted by youths loyal to Tsvangirai at the party’s Harvest House headquarters last month.

"We are in a bad situation. It has been bad for a while, but we are now hitting rock bottom. It's not helping that Tsvangirai has apparently lost the support of some of our traditional donors, and it looks like there is no quick way out of our funding ­predicament," said a member of the national executive who preferred to remain anonymous.

"We were supposed to hold our annual conference this month and later, an all-stakeholders conference, but funding has been a problem. I don't see us holding our annual conference on time. At this rate, it may never be held."

The party needs about $200 000 to hold the conference.

'We have not been spared'
MDC spokesperson Douglas Mwonzora confirmed that the party was in financial ­difficulty, but downplayed the issue.

"The situation is not unique to the MDC. There is a serious liquidity crunch in the country, and we have not been spared, but we will hold our conference this year," he said.

The party usually holds its conference in March, but Mwonzora said a date for this year's meeting had not been set.

He said the party's organising ­committee was working to ensure that the funds were raised.

An MDC official revealed on condition of anonymity that there was a feeling among donors that the party had "enjoyed the trapping of power too much" and some leaders were too cosy with Zanu-PF.

"No one wants to fund a disorganised or non-perfoming organisation, and we are paying for that," said the official.

"The companies that used to ­support us have stopped because of the liquidity crisis in the country. Besides, our numbers in Parliament are too few, so we have lost the punch we had in the last Parliament, and who wants to fund an opposition whose role in Parliament is diminishing?"

Another official said the party's best hope for funding was the government grant for political parties, under which Zanu-PF and the Movement for Democratic Change-Tsvangirai are meant to share $3-million.

Government grant
Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa allocated the money under the Political Parties (Finance) Act in the 2014 national budget proposals for parties with at least 5% of the vote in the 2013 elections.

The law was enacted in 2002 to stop political parties from receiving funding from "hostile" foreign governments and non-governmental organisations. Zanu-PF has in the past accused the MDC of receiving funds from Britain and other Western governments, which it has denied.

The MDC's all-stakeholders conference was meant to mend bridges with civil society, student unions, trade unions, pressure groups and human rights organisations, all of which have traditionally supported the MDC.

Relations between the party and many of these partners deteriorated when the party was in government, with the MDC’s leadership being accused of straying from the party’s founding values.

"Our hope is that civil society will host the all-stakeholders conference because we do not have the resources. The conference has been identified as one of the key ways for us to regain support," said an MDC official.

Tsvangirai urges supporters
Meanwhile, Tsvangirai has been urging his supporters to donate money, which will lessen the party's reliance on donors. He has also accused some diplomats in Zimbabwe of supporting leadership change in the MDC.

"We are surprised by people who say, 'We want that one to lead the party.' Is that the work of diplomats?" he asked at a rally in Harare at the weekend. "If you are a proud people, underwrite your own struggle. Contribute 50c or a dollar as you do in church."

Tsvangirai's supporters believe donors are withholding funding in an effort to ensure there is leadership change. Tsvangirai has refused to resign, saying he can be removed only at a congress. He insists that Zanu-PF won the election because of rigging, and through no fault of his own.

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