AFRICAN Union (AU) Commission deputy chairperson Erastus Mwencha visited Harare in February to receive a donation of some 300 cattle by President Robert Mugabe who had then just completed his term as chair of the continental body.
Mugabe reportedly pledged the donation in June last year to help reduce the AU’s “over-reliance on external partners whose donations come with strings attached”.
Mwencha however, left Harare without the cattle which, state media reported, were being kept by Kadoma businessman and Mugabe supporter Jimayi Muduvuri.
Zanu PF Parliamentarian Kindness Paradza, at the time told AFP news agency: “We are looking after the cattle at a farm in Karoi and the AU can decide what they want to do with them.”
It now turns out that there aren’t 300 cattle, but just 30 and they are not coming from Mugabe either.
The State-owned Herald newspaper on Tuesday reported Muduvuri telling “leaders in the country’s 10 provinces” to hand over cattle they pledged to “President Mugabe after he donated 300 cattle to the African Union”.
Muduvuri gave the provinces a deadline of the end of this month to deliver the beasts.
“We are reminding all provincial administrators, ministers of state and Zanu PF provincial chairmen to wind up their mobilisation and hand over the cattle to President Mugabe as a way of thanking him for the work he did at the African Union,” Muduvuri is quoted saying.
“We will be sending trucks to the provinces to collect all pledges. I will be calling the provinces soon and we want to update the AU on the progress we have made.”
Speaking during Mwencha’s February visit, Mugabe said: “I am happy that the gift we offered to the AU is at last received by the beneficiary.
“I just decided that we make a gift in kind, it just struck me that no one had ever thought of a gift by way of cattle to the AU and since we are cattle people why shouldn’t we also make a gift to the AU in cattle form?
“So we are very happy to make such a contribution, it (AU) is our organisation.”
The donation, made a time millions of Zimbabweans faced hunger due to drought, was condemned by the local opposition.
“This is a joke in very bad taste; It’s a joke that’s not funny at all,” said MDC-T spokesman Obert Gutu.
“How can … Mugabe, knowing that at least three million Zimbabweans are facing starvation because of the El Nino-induced drought, coupled with the effects of a disastrous land reform exercise, find it fit and proper to donate 300 cows to the AU?
He added: “Instead of donating those 300 cows to the AU, the Zanu PF regime should actually have sold those beasts and raise money to import maize.
“With a president like this, who needs enemies?”
PDP spokesman Jacob Mafume added: “It will rank among the most bizarre donations that an international body has received.
“If you take into consideration the fact that Zimbabwe is behind in paying its dues to the AU by a considerable amount then it all becomes farcical and rank madness.”