Friday, January 01, 2010

(TALKZIMBABWE) MDC-T faces huge corruption problem

MDC-T faces huge corruption problem
The Independent/TZG
Fri, 01 Jan 2010 13:41:00 +0000

THE overseas offices of Zimbabwe's former opposition Movement for Democratic Change party led by Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai face a "huge" corruption problem, with £57,000 missing from the British branch, according to a senior official of the cash-strapped party.

In February, the MDC-T joined an inclusive Government with President Robert Mugabe's Zanu PF.

The MDC-T's treasurer-general, Roy Bennett, said yesterday that the British branch – second only to the South African office of the party in importance – had been suspended in the wake of what Bennett describes as a problem the party faced "everywhere".

Bennett, 52, said that although a formal instruction had yet to be given, all other overseas branches would be disbanded.

He said that MDC-T branches across the world faced rogue elements.

"They are bleeding us," he said. "I would hate to know the amount of money that has been raised by Zimbabweans in exile purporting to represent the MDC. They have used the MDC name and pocketed the money."

The UK and Ireland provincial executive has been suspended pending an investigation into what the MDC-T secretary general and Finance Minister, Tendai Biti, described as "shocking" financial irregularities in a November letter announcing the action.

But UK-based MDC-T officials yesterday played down the claims, insisting that any financial irregularities under its supervision were not the result of corruption.

"It's more to do with the way the money was remitted to Harare," said Jeff Sango, chairman of the MDC in the South-east of England.

"The people who were supposed to make the investigation should come here and do that investigation. There is no evidence right now. It is only an allegation."

The MDC-T has about 800 active members in the UK. According to UK-based officials, about 70 per cent of funds raised from members – including via the sale of £70 membership cards – are sent back to Zimbabwe, with the rest used to cover administrative costs. But the MDC in Harare says that the British branch failed to submit adequate financial reports.

Biti also noted "extensive bickering" in the UK and Ireland branches of the party. His younger brother Stanford, a vehement critic of the British party organisation, is alleged to have pelted members of the executive committee with eggs.

The former opposition party is trying to convince highly educated Zimbabweans abroad to return home.

According to Zimbabwe's finance ministry, the diaspora sent home £100m in remittances to relatives in 2009 – about the same amount as the European Union gave in aid.

But repeated calls by the Prime Minister, the MDC's leader, Morgan Tsvangirai, for the return of teachers, nurses, doctors and business people have met with reluctance, amid scepticism over the progress of the inclusive Government. Earlier this year, PM Tsvangirai was booed when he addressed hundreds of Zimbabweans at Southwark Cathedral in London.

The MDC-T's surprise move is likely to be greeted by expatriates with particular scepticism as the party has been riddled with corruption within and outside Zimbabwe. The MDC-T party has also been frantically looking for funds to finance its election campaign.

This has been masked as a move to advance the constitutional process. Treasurer Bennett said: "Raising that money is going to be a priority. In all my time as treasurer, I have only ever managed to mobilise 12 vehicles for party canvassing work."

Bennet's desire to raise money to source the vehicles, seems to be in response to the fact that Zanu PF already has 12 vehicles in every district.

He denied that the MDC-T is funded by the British Government, although it is clear that the Westminster Foundation has been funding the party from the onset.

"I have never seen a single penny from Britain," said Bennet. "Politics is about money, and we are down to relying on a poverty-stricken people to try to replace a government that has taken full control of everything."

The MDC-T has remained tight-lipped about its funding, which is believed to come largely from members of the business community who do not wish to be identified while President Mugabe is in power. European embassies admit only to providing the MDC-T with trainers and bursaries for courses in subjects such as international relations.

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