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Frugal Mugabe shakes off 'out of touch' tag

Battle cry ... Mugabe and wife Grace arrive at the convention hall for Zanu PF conference

08/12/2012 00:00:00
by Gilbert Nyambabvu
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IF ZANU PF is diverting money from Marange diamonds as alleged by its coalition partners, then some of the cash is probably not finding its way to President Robert Mugabe.

The MDC formations accuse Zanu PF of skimming off money from Marange to fund its war chest for next year’s elections at a time the government is struggling to pay its workers a living wage.

They have cited the US$20 million input scheme Mugabe launched recently in Harare as well as a new US$6 million convention complex built in Gweru for the party’s conference.

But if Zanu PF is flash with cash, then the party may have forgotten to lavish its leader with the riches as the famously frugal 88-year-old donned party regalia from the 2005 election campaign.

Mugabe - in power since 1980 - addressed about 6,000 supporters at the Gweru gathering, typically donning yellow party regalia emblazoned with his head. But the devil was in the detail: a campaign message on his lapel urged ‘Vote Zanu PF 2005’.

Still, Mugabe’s choice of clothing may have been deliberate. He rallied the party faithful for key elections he wants to be held in March by asking for selfless public service underpinned by prudence.

He demanded an end to corruption and projected himself as genuinely in touch with the man on the street. He peppered his speech with condemnation of Zimbabweans’ pet hates: traffic police, customs officers and fat cat ministers.

Some ministers, he said, were soliciting bribes from foreign investors claiming that some of the cash would find its way to him. We are all victims of these evil operators, was the message.

“I was getting complaints even kunze from former South African president Thabo Mbeki who said some of our ANC people who come (to Zimbabwe) trying to do business, have been told ‘if you want to do business you should give us US$1 million. No, it is now US$5 million. We will take some of the money to President Mugabe, zvekundinyepera’,” Mugabe charged.

“That is corruption. If I get information that minister so-and-so is doing that, you go immediately. Unfortunately, vamwe vanenge vasingadi kutaura mazita. Be disciplined. Do not try to deceive. There is a lot of indiscipline taking place.”

Mugabe also said corruption was also rife in other public services such as the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority and the police, with officers inconveniencing ordinary people by demanding bribes at road blocks and border posts.


He railed: “Mapurisa, mapurisa, mapurisa! Kumisa vanhu mumigwagwa; ‘mota yako haina mabreaks haungaende mberi kana uchida, bhadhara US$200 woenda!’

“We want you to be straightforward people. You are representatives not only of government, but of the people as a whole.”

Mugabe said it was wrong for public officials to demand payment for doing their jobs adding thousands of young Zimbabweans who fought to liberate the country never demanded a penny.

“It (joining the liberation war) was just commitment. If you want to be paid to do your job, then you are practising corruption and you cannot boast of having a well-disciplined police,” he said.

The speech went down very well with the party faithful ahead of key elections next year, in which Zanu PF hopes its message of “empowerment” will win the day.

The party’s elections chief Webster Shamu said they would “saturate the national heart’s and mind’s battlespace with the party’s ideological teachings and deny that same space to the Western regime change surrogates that are active in our national body politic”.

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