FIRST Lady Grace Mugabe’s whirlwind campaign rallies, which have so far led her to five provinces, are set to gobble millions of dollars given the size of her entourage and amount of resources commandeered to oil the gatherings.
However, the source of funding for the rallies has remained a mystery amid swirling speculation that the mega-rallies, attended by Cabinet ministers and top civil servants, could be feeding from the ailing national fiscus.
By Saturday, Grace had traversed five provinces mostly using two military helicopters including the presidential helicopter, with hordes of Cabinet ministers and provincial heads of government departments on tow. So far she has been to Chinhoyi, Gweru, Harare, Masvingo and Manicaland.
Zanu PF spokesman Rugare Gumbo yesterday professed ignorance over the source of funding for these rallies.
“I really don’t know where the funding is coming from, but you can try the national chairman (Simon Khaya Moyo) or the secretary for administration (Didymus Mutasa) to shed light,” Gumbo said.
Khaya Moyo and Mutasa were not immediately available and had not responded to text messages sent to their mobile phones by the time of going to print.
However, presidential spokesman
George Charamba without disclosing the source of funding denied that the rallies were being funded from State coffers.
“Comrade Gumbo’s ignorance of the funding does not mean that it’s being funded by the State. You should get a comment from the Women’s League where it got the funding. Not a single cent has come from Treasury for this,” Charamba said.
He also said: “The First Lady is a woman of means and they have sources of income from their different (business) enterprises.”
Charamba added there was nothing unusual about the First Lady using the presidential helicopter.
“As the First Lady, we look at issues of security, convenience and availability of the plane and these are expenses that ordinarily the First Family would receive. Wherever she goes private or public she should have security and her staff and I attend in my capacity to protect the image of the President as her life has an impact on the President,” he said.
Charamba said individual ministers who were attending the rallies were finding their way there.
Informed sources told NewsDay that civil servants at national and provincial levels were deeply involved in the planning of the rallies using their departmental resources.
It is common cause that Zanu PF was broke and could not afford to bankroll Grace’s rallies after it failed to sponsor the recent Youth League conference resulting in President Mugabe’s family providing food to hordes of party youths who had come from all over the country to elect their new leadership.
“The motorcade she is using is State’s and everything is being looked at as State occasions and bear in mind there has been no distinction between party and government business under Zanu PF rule,” the source said.
Women’s League bosses Oppah Muchinguri and Nyasha Chikwinya were not immediately available for comment to shed light if the funding was mobilised by their department. Opposition parties and civic society groups have described Grace’s rallies as disguised campaigning ahead of the party’s decisive December congress.
The First Lady has used the rallies to cow her perceived opponents into submission through threats and public accusations with impunity and hinted that she was targeting a higher political post, raising suspicion that she could be angling to succeed her husband President Mugabe.