PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe (pictured) has reportedly blown an estimated $20 million in hosting the eight Zanu PF youth interface rallies he has held to date, with the bulk of the money commandeered from State coffers, as he drums up support for his candidature ahead of next year’s crunch polls, NewsDay has learnt.
BY BLESSED MHLANGA/XOLISANI NCUBE
It has also emerged that the First Family’s business empire, Gushungo Dairies, is cashing in on the rallies, having pocketed $120 000 so far through the provision of its ice-cream and other milk products, which were later disguised as donations and given out to party supporters.
The ice-cream was reportedly paid for by provincial youth leagues and “donated” to party supporters and top officials by First Lady Grace Mugabe at the rallies.
At a time the government was struggling to meet its wage bill and was overborrowed by $5 billion on the domestic market, NewsDay understands ministries and parastatals were emptying their coffers to massage the First Family’s campaign trails ahead of next year’s elections.
Zanu PF sources said the ruling party was spending an average of $2,5 million to host each of the rallies.
“The total cost of each rally can only be estimated because we have not sat down to calculate the actual cost, but the cost is huge. It involves fuel for bussing supporters from across the country, hiring of tents, the public address system, accommodation and allowances for President Mugabe’s advance team and the organising teams. I can put the cost at $2,5 million,” a source said.
But Zanu PF spokesperson Simon Khaya Moyo scoffed at the claims, saying the party was digging from its resource base to fund the campaign rallies.
“Get me the proof that we are using State resources and I will answer that question. I cannot answer questions on allegations without proof,” he said.
Zanu PF youth league treasurer Tongai Kasukuwere could not provide the figures, but said the rallies were being funded by Zanu PF.
“These rallies are in our party budget and funding comes from the party,” he said.
“I can’t tell you the figure, but all I can say is that from the national leadership, we mainly focus on the President and the VIP tent which we pay for.
“The provincial team has the duty to mobilise for transport and other logistics.
“So you can’t really quantify how much we put in because it’s an issue of contribution mainly again in kind.”
MDC-T secretary-general Douglas Mwonzora, however, dismissed Kasukuwere’s assertions, saying he was aware that Zanu PF had no money to fund the interface rallies and was busy abusing State resources.
“We know that Zanu PF is broke, I know it because I sit in a forum with the secretary-general of Zanu PF (secretary for administration Ignatius Chombo). They are broke, probably more broke than the MDC as a party, but they are not shy to abuse State resources and Mugabe is abusing State resources, his ministers are abusing State resources, they get transport and allowances from State resources in order to attend these interface rallies. It is unfair, unjust and unconscionable,” he said.
Mwonzora called on Mugabe to use the resources to bail out troubled companies so that he could stimulate economic growth instead of abusing taxpayers’ money to fund his rallies.
People’s Democratic Party spokesperson Jacob Mafume said: “It’s a gross abuse of national resources, which borders on criminality for one to hold factional meetings, where his wife uses access to the national broadcaster to act like a Nigerian movie actress by insulting people.
“The country does not benefit, his party does not benefit and yet they spend all that money when millions of Zimbabweans have no access to medication, cash and jobs are drying.”
Highly-placed sources said for the Midlands rally only, a total of 100 000 litres of fuel was used amounting to $130 000. This excluded the cost of the vehicles, which were commandeered from schools and private business players.
Ice-cream worth $15 000 was bought from Alpha and Omega Dairy, while flying Mugabe by one helicopter to rallies costs the government nearly $2 000 an hour.
Mugabe, his deputies and service chiefs were normally flown to the rallies in three State helicopters. The party also hires the main stage for $20 000, and the cost of hiring the ZBC outside broadcasting van was at least
$100 000 per day.
Senior government officials, heads of parastatals and their public relations teams were forced to attend the rallies after drawing huge allowances to fund for their fuel and accommodation at an enormous cost.
In 2016, Mugabe blew $2 million during a two-hour indaba he held with 10 000 war veterans at the City Sports Centre in Harare.
The Zanu PF leader is currently attending a United Nations summit in New York, where he will reportedly blow over $10 million in allowances and expenses for his entourage of about 70 aides.