BY NQOBANI NDLOVU
PRESIDENT Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government splashed cash on leaders of opposition political parties, including MDC-T Alliance leader Douglas Mwonzora, to facilitate their attendance of Independence Day celebrations in Bulawayo, it has emerged.
For the first time since 1980, Independence Day celebrations were held outside Harare on April 18.
Mnangagwa was impressed by opposition leaders’s attendance so much that he spoke about it more than once in public gatherings, including yesterday when he addressed a Zanu PF rally in Epworth.
It has since been established by this publication that taxpayers footed the bill for the opposition leaders whose packages included generous quantities of fuel, accommodation at top hotels and food.
Most of the opposition parties that travelled to Bulawayo belong to the Political Actors Dialogue (Polad) — a forum set up by Mnangagwa after the 2018 elections where he regularly meets losing presidential candidates from fringe political parties.
Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) leader Nelson Chamisa has refused to join Polad saying it is a Zanu PF cheerleaders club.
Chamisa’s CCC attended the Independence Day celebrations in the country’s second city, breaking away from the past stance of boycotting national events.
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CCC representative at the celebrations Charlton Hwende said he did not receive the allowances and the fuel coupons, but other opposition party leaders confirmed receiving the same, amid claims that some got as much as 400 litres of fuel to travel from Harare
“I never received anything, we attended on our free will,” Hwende said yesterday.
Linda Masarira, the leader of the Labour, Economists and African Democrats, said she received 150 litres.
“For the record, every person who attended the Independence Day celebrations as an invited guest was afforded fuel coupons in accordance with where they came from,” Masarira told The Standard on Friday.
“Everyone who has travelled away from home is obviously accommodated for national events.
“I don’t see why it should be hullabaloo that people who travelled from Harare were accommodated in hotels. Where did people want us to stay, in trees?”
Nationalists Alliance of Patriotic and Democratic Republicans leader Devine Hove said there was nothing untoward as Polad members were used to being pampered for their meetings with the president.
“As a member of Polad it is a norm that we are invited to attend such events and what I know is that guests are given fuel commensurate with the distance that you would have travelled,” Hove said.
His Zimbabwe Partnership counterpart Innocent Netanyahu added: “We only get fuel when we go to State House meetings.
“They have to legitimately compensate for that.”
Information permanent secretary Nick Mangwana yesterday said opposition leaders were assisted with “logistics” to attend the celebrations.
“No opposition and Polad member was paid to come, but the government just invited them and assisted with logistics,” Mangwana said.
Critics have said Polad is a waste of national resources.
In 2021, Mnangagwa attracted scorn after handing out 19 Isuzu D-Max vehicles to Polad principals at a cost of over US$1 million.
Polad principals have also been pampered with diplomatic passports and have been promised farms.