A section of youths from the Nelson Chamisa-led MDC Alliance are up in arms with the party leadership over sponsorship extended by an Australian company to create awareness of alleged abuses by Chinese miners in the Uzumba and Mutoko areas of Mashonaland East Province.
The company (name withheld), availed about US$175,000 to the MDC Alliance in August this year after the Australians failed to secure granite exploitation claims subsequently awarded to Heijin Mining and Shanghai Haoyin of China.
It is understood that the opposition party convinced the Australians that it could use the alleged abuses to make a political foray into the Zanu-PF stronghold of Mashonaland East, setting the stage for an electoral victory in the 2023 polls. As a quid quo pro, the MDC Alliance pledged to grant mining concessions to the company once it was in government.
Party officials, on getting the money, promised a group of eight youths US$5,000 each if they went on the ground and convinced villagers to go on record with complaints against the Chinese.
However, the youths say they have only been paid amounts ranging between US$75 and US$120 each for their work.
Efforts to get a comment from MDC Alliance spokesperson Miss Fadzayi Mahere on why the foot soldiers were not paid were fruitless as she did not answer her phone when contacted.
However, three of the youths on Thursday were stopped by security as they tried to accost Miss Mahere and other party leaders as they held a press conference in Harare to unveil the findings of the Australian-sponsored research.
When this reporter asked why they were being barred from entering the press conference venue, the security personnel said the trio was “not invited” and “not members of the media” so they could not attend due to COVID-19 protocols.
This publication subsequently sought to find out from the youths what was happening, resulting in revelation of the allegations of abuse of donated funds.
“Sha, takanzi tichapihwa ma five thaza tikarova basa iri, and takanzi pachabuda ma good graft kana mbinga dzeku Australia dzavhura migodhi after ma elections. But so far ini ndapihwa waya chete. (My friend, they told us that we would get US$5,000 each if we did the ground work, and they also told us that we would get could jobs once the Australians start mining in Mashonaland East after we win the elections. But so far I have only been given US$100,” one of them said.
Another said he had been paid US$120 while the third said he had received US$75 despite doing the donkey work. The trio claimed they were not aware of a single one of their colleagues being paid more than US$120 despite spending days “living in fear in Uzumba doing MDC work”.
They said they had been promised to have been paid in full well before their findings were made public, and were shocked to see their leaders holding a press conference after paying them “peanuts”.
A senior party official said he was not aware that money had been released for the project up until Tuesday morning when he heard there would be a press conference on the research findings later in the week.
“Team yacho inoziva kurova bhegi (these guys know how to grab money,” he said. “I have heard that there is a threat to press criminal charges, but (the Australian company) wants things resolved quietly because it doesn’t want details of the payment to become public.”
The opposition party has long been dogged by accusations of lacking transparency when it comes to accounting for donor funds.
On several occasions, most recently in 2014 and in 2018, donors have withdrawn their financial support, leaving the opposition party struggling to sustain its operations as it tries to dislodge the Zanu-PF regime.
MDC workers have previously tried to attach party property through the courts over unpaid wages.