Our lead story on Tuesday stated that President Robert Mugabe and a number of Cabinet ministers were holidaying, taking a rest away from a country they have systematically destroyed with the economy continually faltering.
The irony of it all was that they were holidaying in destinations far away from the “madding crowd” using taxpayers’ money, of course. They even had the guts of taking the little money available and plunder it in other countries at the expense of local tourist outings.
The holidays coincided with the delays in the payment of salaries to the ever loyal and dedicated civil service that saw the bulk of staffers enduring a “moneyless” festive season.
What this shows is that our government leaders do not care about their workers, but themselves and their families. They are concerned with personal gratification.
Were they going to die if they had forgone the holiday to deal with the elephant in the living room –the economic morass and corruption that has to a large extent led to the social upheaval in the country?
If anybody doubted that Mugabe and his government leadership were profligate, they should be re-examined. This government has a particularly severe and systemic problem with its top officials in the ruling elite taking advantage of corruption to extend their personal wealth and political power.
Allowing ministers to make merry when Zimbabwe is facing a myriad of challenges due to poor governance, the non-performing economy and squandering of State funds at the expense of the wider population, sometimes without even the pretence of honest service, is at best dishonesty of the highest order.
In this economy where inflows to Treasury are dwindling, one would expect leaders to cut the coat according to the cloth. Yet, they were on a spending spree as if the country has inexhaustible resources. Beside there were reports last week that the Local Government ministry wanted to buy 600 cars from an Indian vehicle manufacturer at a cost of $50 million while some local authorities are struggling to provide basic services due to limited funds.
Added to that we have a President who believes that he is entitled to attend every meeting or conference in which he is invited to on the globe. This has seen his travels gobbling millions of dollars that could have been channelled towards financing the provision of basic services such as water and sanitation. In the nine months from January to September, Mugabe spent $33,2 million on foreign travels — nearly double the $17,3 million that had been allocated for this purpose. Thank God, his tenure as African Union chair ends at the end of the month and the nation hopes that he shall cut on his travels to concentrate on the economy.
Mugabe and his team should take a cue from other countries taking a raft of measures to maximise the use of their little resources. For example Tanzanian President John Magufuli took a step further by scraping independence celebrations and ordered a clean-up exercise in its place. Since taking over the reins from Jakaya Kikwete in November last year, Magufuli has been preaching fiscal prudence, cutting on unnecessary expenditures. This is the step Zimbabwe must take to pull itself out of this economic quagmire. The country’s leadership should use resources sparingly in the absence of budgetary support from friendly countries. The inclusive government instilled financial discipline under the “eat what you have hunted” slogan. Yet the Zanu PF government discarded the slogan due to its penchant to live beyond its means and the results are there for all to see. It is clear that government no longer has morals. Whether Mugabe and his leadership used their personal resources to make merry around the globe, the timing is wrong when government has failed to pay its workers.