OPPOSITION parties yesterday called on the electorate, particularly civil servants, to resist any attempts by the ruling Zanu PF to force them to donate towards President Robert Mugabe’s 92nd birthday bash slated for February in Masvingo.
The parties said it would be unfair for Zanu PF to expect generous cash donations from underpaid civil servants and ordinary citizens who are facing a severe drought.
Mugabe turns 92 on February 21, and the ruling party has announced plans to raise $800 000 for the main celebrations, which ironically will be held in the drought-stricken Masvingo province.
Former Zanu PF spokesperson, Rugare Gumbo said the $800 000 being raised for the bash could feed thousands of villagers in the dry parts of the country.
“$800 000 could be used for a lot of things, importation of maize or even civil servants’ salaries. Priority should be to address issues that people are facing and not have a bash. These people are not concerned about the majority, but the minority that benefit from their extractive policies,” Gumbo, now interim spokesperson for People First movement fronted by former Vice-President Joice Mujuru, said.
MDC-T spokesperson Obert Gutu said it was immoral for Zanu PF to expect cash donations towards its leader’s lavish party at a time most families were struggling to put food on the table.
People’s Democratic Party (PDP)’s Bulawayo provincial spokesperson Fortune Mlalazi said: “As a country, we cannot continue to bankroll lavish bashes for one person. Surprisingly, the party is being organised by Zanu PF youth league members, whose future has been destroyed by Mugabe.
“We encourage civil servants to steadfastly resist forced donations. How do you ask for donations from people whom you are not paying? The money to be raised should be channelled towards civil servants’ pay and procurement of urgent drought relief.”
MDC spokesperson, Kurauone Chihwayi said the birthday extravaganza confirmed Zanu PF’s insensitivity to the plight of its electorate reeling under harsh economic conditions.
“To have a President luxuriating for a month in paradise while the country embarks on a season of massive pain was bad enough, but to have an $800 000 birthday bash thrown in his honour soon after is the biggest slap on the face to the suffering Zimbabweans,” he said.
“It is clear that President Mugabe and his Zanu PF party have no compunction about draining the little that people still have in order for him, his family and the top chefs in government to live the life of royalty. It looks like the First Family and the top brass in Zanu PF and government are living a life quite detached from the daily realities of the suffering millions. This birthday bash would appear in some cruel twisted way to be the sad reincarnation of French King Louis XVI’s wife, Marie Antoinette’s famous proclamation, ‘Let them eat cake…’”
Progressive Teachers’ Union of Zimbabwe president, Takavafira Zhou challenged Mugabe to take a cue from Tanzanian President John Magufuli and donate the money to families hit by food shortages.
“I think we must copy from the Tanzanian President,” he said.
“Our President needs a few tutorials with the Tanzanian President so we can convert that money into good use by buying food that would be distributed on non-partisan grounds, or channel that money to paying civil servants’ bonuses or even the health sector.”
The new Tanzanian leader has endeared himself with his people after introducing a raft of cost-cutting measures, which included a ban of unnecessary foreign visits by government officials as well as scrapping independence day celebrations to allow funds to be channelled towards fighting a cholera disaster in his country.