Harare City Council has resolved that political parties can use its stadiums for free despite the local authority’s parlous financial status.
The decision is despite the council failing to deliver service to residents and ratepayers and its workers going unpaid for months due to lack of financial resources.
The MDC-T-dominated council resolved to allow political parties that receive money from Treasury under the Political Parties (Finance) Act to use stadia for free twice a year and four times during an election year.
The city charges US$12 000 for a political party to use the City Sports Centre, while more is charged for political gatherings in bigger venues such as Rufaro Stadium.
The local authority also owns some small venues doted around the suburbs.
Under the Zimbabwe Political Parties (Finance) Act, Government bankrolls all parties that get at least five percent of the total vote cast. Currently only Zanu-PF and the MDC-T qualify for State funding.
Council’s decision is, however, seen as a way of cushioning the financially hamstrung MDC-T, which has hit hard times over the years as its international backers and local companies are now snubbing it. Councillors noted that consent had been obtained to authorise National Pastors’ Fellowship to use City Sports Centre for free as a place of worship during the National Day of Prayer for Peace.
The councillors resolved that; “The same gesture be extended to political parties that are under the Political Funding Act to use City of Harare premises for free twice a year and four times during an election year with effect from January 1, 2015,” read the minutes.
Hatcliffe councillor Naboth Munyengera (Zanu-PF) said the MDC-T was using its dominance in the council to “save their party from drowning”.
“They see that their party can no longer afford to pay to use council facilities hence they are pretending as if they are extending the favour to all parties but it is for their benefit.
“MDC-T is broke. Donors who used to sponsor them have realised that the party is going nowhere hence they have withdrawn their support. We at council should be concentrating on service delivery issues which is the main reason why we were elected into council,” he said.
He said the MDC-T councillors should not use their dominance in council to make decisions which benefit their party.
Harare mayor Bernard Manyenyeni said the city was not the first to have the facility.
“We resolved that political parties qualifying for state funding can use council stadia twice a year and during election year up to four times. This facility has not yet been utilised by any party.
“We (MDC-T) paid for our congress. We are not the first council to have the facility,” he said.
Councillor Wellington Chikombo, who seconded the motion, said council wanted to promote multi-party democracy and freedom of assembly.
“We wanted to create a conducive environment to showcase different manifestos and council should be seen promoting freedom of assembly.
“MDC-T is only a party which is still recruiting. It is not broke as it is financed by the people. You cannot expect MDC to be rich when it is funded by the people,” he said.
Efforts to contact Local Government, Public Works and National Housing Minister Dr Ignatius Chombo were fruitless while the ministry’s permanent secretary Eng George Mlilo said he was out of office.
In March this year, MDC-T Bulawayo South legislator Eddie Cross conceded that the party was in financial dire straits.
He said the party spent all the money on elections and that it was left with US$1 million in its kit of which half had been spent on electoral court challenges, 90 percent of them unsuccessful.
Aspiring MDC-T parliamentary candidates rushed to court after they lost to Zanu-PF in their constituencies citing rigging but their cases were thrown out for lack of evidence.