Political party

Financing of political parties: natural resources, a key catalyst

Green Governance Zimbabwe Trust
POLITICAL party financing remains a cog in the democratization of elections because of its potential to put some parties ahead in the electoral process at the expense of others.

In cases where the sources of election funding are opaque, parties raise illicit funds from foreign investors (through arranged investments), private individuals and local businesses seeking to “protect” their undertaken by the incumbent ruling party, which could otherwise disrupt them for non-compliance.

These practices violate the law on the financing of political parties and constitute a threat to democracy and the allegiance that elected officials should ideally have towards the electorate.

The official sources of funding for political parties in Zimbabwe are set out in the Political Parties Funding Act (Chapter 2:11), where parties are expected to fulfill the requirement of 5% of the total number of votes cast in a recent election to obtain financial support from the State which says:

“Each political party whose candidates received at least 5% of the total number of votes cast in the last general election shall be entitled to the same proportion of the total appropriated funds as the total number of votes cast for its candidates in the election is the total number of votes cast for all its candidates in that election.

However, this funding is not enough. To top up this paltry amount, parties find themselves embezzling money from the state, corporations, or individuals to prepare and defend or protect their vote and secure government control.

The huge financial gap created by parties during elections therefore makes ‘money’ a crucial commodity that impacts a party’s potential to mobilize voters, engage communities and convince voters in the aim of obtaining a seat in Parliament.

For the party that controls the government, fundraising for elections is characterized by the misuse of state resources such as schools, government institutions and the electorate to generate financial resources that are channeled towards local and national elections.

As we look forward to the 2023 elections, there is no doubt that the mining sector has once again been handed over to fund the elections, as evidenced by the events of the past two years.

The mining sector in its various forms – large-scale, small-scale and artisanal – has been largely infiltrated by ruling party stalwarts who control the production, administration and trade of minerals.

While this is done with prejudice, anarchy and impunity, he will assume the responsibility of financing the electoral process of the ruling party in order to obtain protection, reprieve and waivers.

The nature of funds generated in the artisanal mining sector is even more worrying as production, administration and trading can occur without any trace or history.

It is therefore possible for artisanal miners to produce gold or diamonds, sell them and finance the ruling party during elections so that they obtain the protection they so badly need to continue their illicit trade without any paper trail or proof of corruption.

This state of affairs makes it difficult to hold elections on an equal footing, the party in power having all the resources to finance its electoral campaign.

The Center for Natural Resource Governance in the report Mortgaging the Future in Exchange for Power – Zimbabwe’s Natural Resources and the 2018 Elections refers to the fact that the country’s mineral resources are mortgaged and used as collateral for the illicit “loans” that politicians and political parties receive from companies and individuals to fund their election campaigns.

The report reminds us of a case of the Bokai mine, which Zanu PF, through the ZMDC, sold for $100,000,000 to Billy Rautenbach, who immediately passed on the same mine to CAMEC for $175,000,000. CAMEC, in turn, valued the same for $1 billion, an increase of $825,000,000 in the space of 30 days.

Citizen urgency to monitor the abuse of natural resources during the election period is required in order to curb vote buying, clientelism and neo-patrimonialism associated with elections in Zimbabwe.

It is essential that citizens are urged to stop being used to facilitate the consolidation of power by political parties, but to play a watchdog role to ensure that resources are channeled to their intended purpose.