Mugabe backer held for selling campaign hats
Party youth official accused of erasing the president's face and selling them for US$2
It is considered the most important election in Zimbabwe since independence more than three decades ago, but that has not prevented one disloyal politician from making a quick dollar.
A member of president Robert Mugabe's Zanu-PF party has been arrested and accused of erasing the leader's face from campaign hats and selling them for US$2 each.
The alleged cottage industry was revealed by the mines minister, Obert Mpofu, at a campaign rally in Bulawayo on Sunday. He accused some senior party figures of hoarding campaign regalia instead of distributing it.
"When I was on my way here, I heard that a member from here was arrested after being found with caps for the party campaign in his house," Mpofu said. "That person was scraping the president's face from the caps and reselling them for US$2."
Party insiders identified the culprit as a member of the Zanu-PF provincial youth executive, but the group's chairman, Mabutho Moyo, denied knowledge of the incident.
Zanu-PF caps and T-shirts are said to be in plentiful supply at rallies. The past year has also witnessed growing demand for the House of Gushungo clothing range, which includes berets, T-shirts and golf shirts bearing the signature "RG Mugabe". But less auspiciously it has been reported that money shortages are forcing Zanu-PF to recycle some regalia and posters from the previous election with the year 2008 rubbed out.
Concerns about election irregularities are mounting with the presidential poll just a week away.
Checks of the electoral register by the Harare-based non-governmental Research and Advocacy Unit found that a million Zimbabweans who were dead or had left the country were still on the voters' rolls, which listed 116,000 people over the age of 100.
There were also 78 constituencies with more registered voters than adult residents; and two million voters under 30 were not registered. Early voting for police officers was shambolic.
Mugabe's challenger, Morgan Tsvangirai of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), has warned the electoral commission that he would be closely monitoring it to ensure a fair vote.
State media and security institutions remain under Zanu-PF's control and there have been reports of sporadic violence against MDC supporters.
On Monday, South Africa's opposition Democratic Alliance became the latest organisation to raise the alarm over "serious irregularities" found by its election observers.