No love lost

There is no love lost between the Revolutionary Democrats in Ethiopia and those in the business world, claims gossip. They have always pronounced that they have no electoral base with the elite and the private sector; they proudly bank for support on the rural majority and, to a certain degree, with the nascent labour force. That they are not necessarily keen with the private sector is what they themselves do not keep secret, gossip observed. The regional parties in the ruling coalition have bylaws which do not allow membership to businesspeople.

Almost all their ideological documents and policy papers exclude the business sector as the only social force which ought to be excluded from the grand coalition of society they aspire to build in the bid for their ideology – developmental state – to attain hegemonic status. In keeping with this stance, they foresee the emergence of an opposition party in favour of businesses with liberal worldviews from the burgeoning private sector, claims gossip.

Yet, some in the gossip corridors of the town find it ironic to see prominent businesspeople in the capital rush to line themselves up alongside the EPRDFites come elections every five years.

Five years ago, wealthy businesspeople such as Getu Gelete (now in exile) and Nega G. Sellasie (in prison fighting graft charges) had spearheaded a campaign finance drive which had swelled EPRDF’s coffer by 32 million Br, gossip recalls. It was an amount far ahead of the 20 million Br the ruling party had anticipated, when Hailemariam Desalegn, the current Chairman of the EPRDF – then member of the campaign committee, had received the cheques, according to gossip.

The result was a total annihilation of the opposition with seats in the Federal Parliament and all Regional Councils, although the votes cast tell a slightly different story, claims gossip.

It is no different this time around either, says gossip.

A group of close to 150 businesspeople, many of whom are members of an ad-hoc group known as “EPRDF Supporters’ Businesses Forum” have come in the electoral bid of the Revolutionary Democrats. There are close to 40 who mobilise businesses in the various industries, comprising such wealthy businesspeople such as Bezuayehu Tadelle, a cement mogul behind National Cement S.C. and Mulugeta Tesfakiros, who owns majority share of Muller Real Estate and recently acquired the Awash Winery from the state, gossip disclosed. Others include, Tsegaye Abebe, a founding chairman of the Ethiopian Horticulture Exporters’ Association, Mekia Mamuye of Mekia Enterprise, and Gizeshworq Tessema of Gize Logistics Plc.

The campaign pitch these businesspeople have in support of the Revolutionary Democrats is the latter’s record on economic growth and maintaining peace and stability for pretty much of their over two decades rule. To what degree are those willing to contribute, doing so on their free will or feeling coerced due to their inability to say no, remains a subject of intense debate in the gossip corridors. After all, this is a country where some of the known businesspeople had been observed sending ‘best wishes’ flowers to the EPRDF and fat cheques to the Coalition for Unity & Democracy (CUD), its main electoral challenger, back in 2005, gossip recalls.

The era of double personality appeared to have gone since 2010, claims gossip. Many businesses feel obliged to tow the line alongside the Revolutionary Democrats, because they are their diehard supporters in the business community. These supporters have now planned to host an expensive gala dinner at the Sheraton Addis, scheduled for April 28, 2015, gossip revealed. With each ticket priced at 50,000 Br, the organisers are hoping to sell as many tickets as between 800 to 1,000 in the next eight days, gossip disclosed. If they succeed, this means leaders of the ruling EPRDF should expect to beef up their party’s purse by 50 million Br campaign money from the very sector they abhor, claims gossip.


Published on April 20, 2015 [ Vol 15 ,No 781]



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