PRIME Minister Morgan Tsvangirai has scoffed at reports that he is “living large” while neglecting the poor, saying his recently acquired house is a modest home and his official vehicle was secondhand and often broke down.
REPORT BY JOHN NYASHANU
In an exclusive interview with NewsDay last week, the Premier rubbished claims that his official house in the low-density suburb of Highlands in Harare was worth $4,5 million as alleged in some sections of the media.
“The price of the house was pegged at $790 000 by government evaluators when it was bought and no other evaluation has been undertaken ever since. It boggles the mind to hear the allegations that it is now valued at that amount. Even after renovations, it would never cost $4,5 million,” he said.
Tsvangirai added that his critics were silent when he did not have an official residence for over three years after assuming the top position in government.
“If they are really genuine in their criticism, why did they not sympathise with me when I was staying in Strathaven — to say this kind of accommodation is not suitable for the country’s Prime Minister?” he queried.
The Prime Minister also revealed he had been allocated a secondhand official vehicle which often broke down, a situation that was unexpected of a person of his office.
“When I came into government, I was given a secondhand Mercedes-Benz which has now broken down. It has been replaced by another secondhand vehicle. So for people to allege that a Prime Minister facing such challenges is living large really defies logic,” the Premier said.
Accusations of the MDC-T leadership abandoning the masses and joining the Cabinet gravy train have also been raised at various forums as the country moves towards elections.
Information Communication Technology minister Nelson Chamisa, who is also the party’s organising secretary, was last month grilled at a public meeting over the origins of MDC-T ministers’ alleged wealth “reportedly amassed overnight”.
In his defence, Chamisa maintained that they were surviving on a pittance and that the MDC-T component in government had turned down numerous offers of wealth from their Zanu PF counterparts.
“We have said our calling is to serve the people. We are trying our best to change a culture in government — a culture of entitlement, a culture of self-enrichment, a culture of not being accountable to the people.
“Some journalists would actually pay the salary that a minister gets. I’m very clear about it and say it before God and the people of Zimbabwe that salary is what we survive on,” Chamisa said
Zimbabwean Cabinet ministers earn $2 000, a figure way below what their counterparts in the region were getting.
But against this background, President Robert Mugabe’s ministers are also reported to be some of the richest in the region, with some allegedly owning large tracts of land, mines and upmarket properties in major cities around the country.
Mugabe, at last year’s Zanu PF conference in Gweru, admitted some of his ministers were corrupt, while Mines minister Obert Mpofu at the weekend made stunning revelations that people were turning their backs on Zanu PF because its officials were “selfish, greedy crooks”.
The Premier also denied his ministers had become “filthy rich” since they joined government.
“There is nothing like that. MDC ministers in government have been extremely disciplined in very trying times. What wealth have they amassed since joining government? It is the Zanu PF component that is evidently corrupt,” Tsvangirai said