FIRST Lady Grace Mugabe’s meet-the-people rallies where she donated agricultural equipment to Zanu PF supporters were funded by the State, Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa said yesterday.
by VENERANDA LANGA
Chinamasa was responding to a question by Bulawayo South MP Eddie Cross (MDC-T), who wanted to know who financed Grace’s rallies and the expenditure incurred.
The equipment Grace donated was from a Brazilian facility which the Ministry of Agriculture entered into to boost the agricultural sector.
“The short answer is that the cost of the logistics or movement of the First Lady to meetings falls within the budget of the Office of the President and Cabinet (OPC) because it is not feasible to isolate such costs from the overall costs of the budget of the OPC,” Chinamasa said.
Pressed further by Binga North MP Prince Dubeko Sibanda (MDC-T) to explain if government funds could be used for political rallies, Chinamasa said the two issues could not be separated.
“The MP is just trying to split hairs because the First Lady sometimes travels with the President, and I do not know whether you want to separate the cost of the First Lady riding on the helicopter with the President,” Chinamasa said.
“Sometimes the President delegates her to do charity work. Grace sometimes helps the President in discharging his government duties of charity work and you cannot separate the political from the official work because the President is President of the country as well as Zanu PF and he cannot separate his leadership of the two.”
Meanwhile, government made a U-turn on the ban of domestication of quail birds, with Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa telling the House that there was no Government Gazette published to that effect.
MPs had queried the ban, saying it was now affecting the livelihoods of thousands of rural Zimbabweans who were keeping the birds as part of their livestock.
“If government issues out a new policy, it must be adhered to and the correct procedure is that when government bans something, it is gazetted. But if you read such a Gazette on quail birds, then they have been banned. If you did not, they have not been banned,” Mnangagwa explained.
“There are two types of quail birds: those that can be domesticated and those in wildlife. People are allowed to keep those that are domesticated. What has been banned is going into the bush and national parks to hunt for quail birds or to get their eggs. Commercialising quail birds is allowed, but poaching is not allowed. There is no policy to ban quail birds. They are so tasty and that is why we cannot ban them.”