Graft, T-shirts and the Promise of Land

Land has long been the issue for the disposed average Zimbabwean. During British colonialism, whites controlled the land, converting the finest soils into plantations of cash crop, grown for export. Blacks were left with nothing but the equivalent of ethnic ‘reservations’. The land issue was the impetus for a violent revolution against what was then called Rhodesia, white controlled, and newly independent of Britain. (Schleicher, 2004) Racism from whites was and is currently less, an ingrained feature in sub-Saharan Africa, and that was met with anger and envy by much the landless poor. President Robert Mugabe is a man that promised land to millions of people. His mission for a controlled land redistribution program has fell short in its goals by legal measures, which often get excused for lack of Western “funding.”

In the race prior to the 2013 Elections, the party was the recipient of ‘foreign aid’ from China that consisted of promotional campaign material. President Mugabe described China as “Zimbabwe’s all-weather friend,” making the claim that “we have many friends from the East.” It is curious if by ‘we’ he was speaking of Zimbabwe or himself, as Mugabe is accepting the gift of “over one million T-shirts…and other campaign materials to the ZANU-PF party to aid in their election efforts.  According to news outlet Bulawayo 24, the donation “comes a few days after Mugabe promised party supporters…in Harare that he would get cars and cash from China to bankroll the party’s campaigns.” (“China donates more,” 2013) The Chinese did not supply MDC-T similarly, and, if judged by international standards, Mugabe would be clearly in violation of campaign fundraising ethics or, tangentially, attempted voter intimidation. Mugabe has long been known to outfit his supporters, on this occasion in prominent yellow and green. An in-demand look, the giveaways of the campaign gear was not without violence between supporters (“Zanu pf t-shirts,” 2013), but also, the marker clothing has led to street clashes between supporters, the ZANU-PF affiliated Chipangano youth gang and the opposition MDC-T supporters, politicians, and activists.

The party has long unofficially supported the Chipangano group, which functions as a youth cadre and violent, street-level support apparatus. The group/gang funds itself by extorting the commuter bus drivers in the capital of Harare, charging a fee to depart the bus stations. “In a day, the militia is said to be raking over $30 000,” and the bus Operators Association are attempting to bring their grievance to the government in early 2012. ZANU-PF Secretary Didymus Mutasa “told them that the former ruling party was not running the extortion ring, and told them the party (referring to ZANU-PF) made its money from selling membership cards not from bus termini.” However, the Chipangano ARE extorting and fund themselves from bus termini, whether it’s a top down directive or otherwise, and for the most part they continue to get away with it, while claiming their effort is at the behest of the party and support of Mugabe’s reforms. Receiving little support for their case from politicians, the Operators approached the police, to bring in the Jimmy Kunaka, the chief organizer of the Chipangano, and certain drivers alleged to be part of the ring. Kunaka and his associates called the charges “fabricated” and claimed that he had “protected the minibuses” and that “they should be thanking me,” adding that the group “deserved to be paid for loading the minibuses, but denied that he was the recipient of the cash.” Kunaka claims that he’s a provincial chairman within the party, as if it would absolve him of any criticism. And requisitely, he deflects, telling the Daily News that “these allegations are being made by agents of the MDC who are trying to tarnish my image. I will not lose focus.” (“Zanu pf terror,” 2012)

Being a culture of corruption, the party has resorted to making offers of appeasement to the opposition. Reportedly, from the state controlled newspaper ZimEye, “Thousands of dollars have been received by MDC-T officials behind closed doors.” The news was likely an attempt to damage the reputation of their political opponents, this time spinning a claim that is usually leveled against ZANU-PF.  The report suggests that Solomon Madzore, his wife, and his elder brother Paul received farm lands from the Indigenisation Office via a former ZANU-PF minister. It has been denied as “rubbish” by the MDC-T Youth leader that the claims were brought against. The Anonymous author which presented the charge states that “other unnamed MDC-T officials were rumoured to have received more money although the finer details could not be fully established at the time of writing” and that “the state media has compiled another list of MDC officials reported to have approached government for lands.” (“Tsvangirai-officials receive farms,” 2013) Whether the claim is factual or turns out to be fraudulent, the purchasing of political submission and the promise of a plot of land has long been an example of how ZANU-PF consolidates its support.

While there are beneficiaries of the Mugabe/ZANU-PF regime, outsiders, political opposition, and the apolitical Zimbabwean at-large suffer physically under their management. There has been incidences of beatings and rape by groups, who purport themselves to be acting on behalf of ZANU-PF. Once incident describes how three unidentified gunmen burst into a family home demanding ZANU-PF membership cards. When their young daughter couldn’t present one, the gunmen left with her, in order to “check some issues” because “she doesn’t have a ZANU-PF card.” She was taken to the bushland 10 miles away, chained to a tree, and raped repeatedly over the course of days before escaping and crossing the border into South Africa.  The incident happened in 2003 when the MDC-T first began challenging the Mugabe government, and the victim, now in the UK, is bringing her case to broader international attention. (Bulawayo 24, 2013) Another series of incidents, representative of almost every election in Zimbabwe since Independence, occurred in 2013 when youths near Chigovanyika went “door to door writing names of all MDC-T activists and threatening to ‘deal’ with them.”  They did this driving around in the ZANU-PF candidate’s car, in ZANU-PF regalia, attacking anyone representing another political party or dissident opinion. Activists received no sympathies from the local police inspector who is a ZANU-PF sympathizer. Also common is forcibly ordering people to vote for Mugabe. (Karimakwenda, 2012) While the President may not personally be one the “vicious animals” who perpetrated these offenses, they were carried out in support of him and the party—not the people—he leads. (“Zanu pf youths,” 2013)

According to Mugabe, the issue of land reform was the “last colonial question.” He has also stated his intention to “to settle it once and for all.” Thus far, it has been by violent confrontation and confiscation of white-owned farms by former “war veterans,” ZANU-PF party members, or other Mugabe loyalists.  “Possession of a ZANU-PF card (means) that one will access socioeconomic resources easier, and most importantly, one would not be persecuted by state and non-state actors.” This members-only club of Zimbabwe’s governance has only served to foster a culture of intimidation and corruption.


Works Referenced

Schleicher, A. (2004, April 12). Zimbabwe’s land program. PBS Online NewsHour. Retrieved from

Zanu pf youths victimise mdc t supporters. (2013, August 16).Votewatch 263. Retrieved from

Woman ‘gang-raped’ for not being a zanu-pf card holder. (2013, October 12). Bulawayo24 News. Retrieved from

Zanu pf terror gang cornered. (2012, September 1).Nehanda Radio. Retrieved from

Karimakwenda, T. (2012, April 13). Violent chipangano gang campaigning for zanu pf. SW Africa Radio. Retrieved from

China donates more than a million t-shirts to zanu-pf. (2013, July 8). Bulawayo24 News. Retrieved from

Tsvangirai-officials receive farms & cash from zanu pf. (2013, October 16). Zim Eye. Retrieved from

Zanu pf t-shirts scramble victim named. (2013, July 17).New Zimbabwe. Retrieved from PF t-shirts scramble victim named/news.aspx

Related Post

One thought on “Graft, T-shirts and the Promise of Land

Leave a Reply