Source: Anger at First Family’s lavish use of tax money – DailyNews Live January 11, 2017
Gift Phiri, News Editor
HARARE – The First Family’s holiday break in the Far East has already been
branded a PR disaster after the couple allegedly salted away millions for
the annual jamboree after scaling back financial perks for public sector
employees, and as First Lady Grace Mugabe is under fire for purchasing a
$1,3m diamond ring through a Lebanese dealer Jamal Ahmed.
The ring was said to be the couple’s 20-year wedding anniversary present.
News reports claimed that the first family has spent $6 million of
Zimbabwe taxpayers’ money on the latest vacation, which has seen it
shuttling between Singapore, Dubai, Hong Kong and China.
Branding her “a vacation junkie”, analysts and opposition parties said the
51-year-old mother-of-four has been indulging in jet-setting, five-star
hotels, and splashing out on expensive trips.
While the 92-year-old President Robert Mugabe and his wife do pay for some
of their personal expenses from their own pocket, the amount paid by the
couple is “dwarfed by the overall cost to the public”.
She is also often criticised for her pricey, high-end wardrobe, and is
considered one of the best-dressed ladies in the country – with the price
tags to prove it – with her sartorial spending inviting ridicule.
Her backers flatter her as a “fashion icon” on a “mission to make the
world a better place for orphaned children.”
She runs the Amai Grace Mugabe Children’s Home in Mazowe housing 98
homeless and orphaned children.
“If we are to nurture the children into good citizens, then it means we
have to do all we can to give them necessary support,” she said in a
But some believe Grace’s lifestyle is lavish at the cost of the people of
Zimbabwe, one of the poorest countries in southern Africa.
To her supporters, she is glamorous, beautiful, charitable and royal, but
to many of her citizens, she is extravagant, meddling and possibly
Political commentators claim Grace and her husband Mugabe, purchase
“swanky stuff … constantly” and “on Zimbabweans’ dime”.
Speaking on the $6m for the trip and the diamond ring, senior consultant
at the International Crisis Group, Piers Pigou said: “Both examples
reflect different aspects of profligacy by the first family and a related
lack of accountability that, at a time of profound and widespread
deprivation among ordinary Zimbabweans and much-needed austerity, further
damage their image both domestically and internationally.”
The jaunts come as Mugabe has skirted the issue of bonuses for government
workers in one of the most drastic measures yet to save money at a time of
one of the worst financial crises that has seen government racking up a
record budget deficit.
It also comes as the economy is collapsing; cash and fuel supplies
dwindling, and State coffers dry that the regime struggles to pay salaries
or bonuses, with public-sector strikes, street protests, and desertions by
Stephen Chan, a professor of world politics at the School of Oriental and
African Studies at the University of London told the Daily News: “Now is
not a moment for conspicuous consumption by leaders or their families in
any part of the world.
“Whether the money involved was earned by legitimate business or not,
examples of modesty are important to a struggling population.”
The first lady has drawn comparisons at home to Imelda Marcos, who fled
the Philippines at the climax of the army-backed “people power” revolt in
1986 and left behind staggering amounts of personal belongings, clothes
and art objects at the palace, including at least 1 220 pairs of shoes.
Opposition People’s Democratic Party (PDP) vice president Kucaca Phulu
said: “It shows the gross disrespect for the common people and the extent
to which a party that purports to be a revolutionary party is actually
exploiting us just as we were exploited by the colonial masters.
“They will face the fate of Imelda Marcos and others who have taken their
people for granted in the past.”
One such purchase by Grace was a ring encrusted with diamonds and costing
almost $1,3 million which she later rejected, opting to have a refund.
The matter came to light after Ahmed dragged her to the courts as his
properties were confiscated by the first lady over the issue.
Last week, the High Court ordered Grace off Ahmed’s three properties which
are in Harare’s leafy suburbs within 24 hours.
The first lady’s lawyer, Wilson Manase, has said he would challenge the
provisional order but Ahmed’s lawyer Beatrice Mtetwa, insisted that the
first lady was in contempt of court, arguing a provisional order cannot be
“The first lady’s defiance of a court order clearly shows that the
political system in Zimbabwe, especially the State institutions that must
hold politically-exposed persons accountable and prevent them from
pursuing naked, self interest, have collapsed,” said academic Maureen
“The system has atomised and chaos has become the new normal and because
of this individualistic and unaccountable people like the first lady can
get away with murder.
“The first family’s unchecked excesses have for long contributed to the
intractable poverty of our people. Without a complete change of government
and an aggressive programme to reform State institutions, we will forever
be at the receiving end of this abuse.”
A social commentator who declined to be named said Grace’s diamond ring
story is a tale of arrogant extravagance in the face of a starving nation.
“Her behaviour has shown how the nation has been dehumanised and taken for
granted by an elite bent on milking Zimbabwe to the last drop.
“She represents a class that has turned Zimbabwe into a lucrative fish
pond where only she and those facilitating and protecting this patronising
pillage can catch the fish.
“The net result is the trickling down on corruption to all sectors of the
civil service and the poor will suffer to eternity,” he said.
MDC spokesperson Obert Gutu said Mugabe and his family want to lead a
swanky and fabulous lifestyle of billionaires or some other such filthy
rich celebrities when in actual fact they have successfully managed to
ransack and loot the national economy of Zimbabwe; in the process leaving
more than 90 percent of the population living as destitute and tramps in
their own country.
“It really boggles the mind how the first family can have the audacity and
temerity to go on a $6 million State-funded extended holiday in Singapore,
Hong Kong, China and Dubai when millions of Zimbabweans are wallowing in
“These people are shameless. They have got absolutely no conscience. The
Zanu PF regime, fronted by Robert and Grace Mugabe, is a disgrace to all
of us Zimbabweans. These people should simply go!”
Peter Maregere, a peace and security analyst and doctoral researcher, said
beyond the mere condemnation, extravagance and intransigence that goes
with these obscene expenditures, the broader issues around the designing
and implementation of institutions of governance that are transparent,
accountable and responsive with clear and unadulterated recall mechanisms,
remains a yawning gap in the country’s democratic endeavour.
“That such astronomical figures can be spent without remorse, without
having regard to the context and the predicament within which the country
finds herself in, is a serious indictment to `our’ leadership model as a
nation,” Meregere told the Daily News.
“Inevitably reproving the individuals and not viewing this as a societal
misnomer with the audacity of condemning the futures of our children needs
“Invariably, this demands our collective effort in designing sustainable
democratic solutions – a systemic process that is more heuristic and
holistic in nature to accommodate both individualistic and societal
approaches in the promotion of thought leadership located within the
institutions I alluded to above.”