October 26, 2005

Opposition denies illegal party funding

Zimbabwe's main opposition party, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), is to be investigated over $2,5-million in illegal funds it is said to have received from Ghana, Nigeria and Taiwan, a state-controlled newspaper has reported. This is comes after Job Sikhala, an MDC member of parliament, alleged that the party has received $2.5 million USD of illegal political funding.
Under Zimbabwe's Political Parties Finance Act it is illegal for local parties to receive foreign funding and Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa told The Herald he would report the matter to the country's police chief. "As minister responsible for the administration of the Political Parties Finance Act, I will draw to the attention of the commissioner of police with respect to the revelations made by honourable Job Sikhala. They will advise us accordingly," Chinamasa was quoted as saying. Sikhala also claimed that disagreements over control of the funds were behind infighting threatening to tear apart the six-year-old opposition party.
MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai's spokesperson, William Bango, however, dismissed Sikhala's claim. "Mr Tsvangirai is not aware of any donations from Ghana, Nigeria or Taiwan as alleged by Mr Sikhala. In Mr Tsvangirai's view, Mr Sikhala is a candidate for psychiatric attention unless he proves his allegations," he is quoted as saying.
Ghanaian President John Agyekum Kufuor has also denied allegations that Ghana contributed funds to the Zimbabwe opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC). He recalled the visit of Mr Tsvangirai to Ghana about 18 months ago and stated that details pertaining to that visit were straightforward. He said President Kufuor, like any other political leader in West Africa, was expected to extend diplomatic courtesies to any visiting opposition leader in a sister African State, hence the reception for the MDC Leader. However, this did not in any way suggest that money had been given to him. The statement said Mr Sikhala had now "emphatically and repeatedly" denied ever having made any such pronouncement. He said he had earlier granted an interview to reporters in Zimbabwe but had been misquoted. The statement said that Sikhala indicated at the said press briefing, he rather commented on the latest activities of the leadership of the Party and not Tsvangirai or President Kufuor having made a donation and expressed the hope that journalists would set the records straight.
The MDC is furthermore also split down the middle over whether or not to participate in elections for a new 66-seat Senate. 26 MDC candidates had registered to contest the November 26 poll in defiance of leader Morgan Tsvangirai's call for a boycott. It was the biggest snub yet to Tsvangirai, who has battled to contain fierce bickering in the party over the issue. He says Zimbabwe's electoral laws "breed illegitimate outcomes". Other senior officials say the party should contest the elections to prevent President Robert Mugabe's ruling Zanu PF gaining more political ground. Zanu PF has a two-thirds majority in the lower house of Parliament. (The Mail & The Guardian, South Africa)

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