VICE-PRESIDENT Phelekezela Mphoko has reportedly refused to move into his State-acquired mansion in Harare’s leafy Grange suburb vowing to continue staying in an upmarket city hotel at taxpayers’ expense, amid claims he was not happy with renovations made to the house.
According to government insiders, Mphoko was reportedly demanding more changes to the house to ensure it meets “his stature”, but the State was struggling to fund the required improvements due to a depleted revenue base.
The Vice-President’s house was bought by government at a cost of $3,5 million, but the renovation costs were not readily available yesterday.
“The house is ready for occupation, but the VP wants more improvements done. We really don’t understand what he wants the Ministry of Public Works and National Housing to do, but we have done our best to it. We don’t know what more needs to be done,” a senior government official, who requested not to be named, said.
Mphoko has clocked over 550 days in a five-star Harare hotel, where he checked in soon after his appointment as Vice-President in December 2014 — gobbling huge sums of taxpayers’ money in accommodation and meal costs.
Local Government permanent secretary, George Mlilo, yesterday said his ministry was no longer involved in the issue, as the matter had been handed over to the Presidency.
“That issue is being handled by the VP’s Office and the Office of the President. We no longer have any business with it,” he said.
Director of State residences in President Robert Mugabe’s Office, Innocent Tizora, refused to comment on the matter.
“Who is this? Yes, how can I help you,” a cordial Tizora said.
But when the NewsDay reporter identified himself, Tizora angrily said: “What do you want, nxa,” before terminating the call.
Several attempts to get a comment from Mphoko himself were fruitless as his phone was busy, while Minister of State in his Office, Thabetha Kanengoni-Malinga was not picking her calls.
Mphoko, a career diplomat who served in various countries, landed the Vice-Presidency in December 2014 following the ouster of then Vice-President Joice Mujuru from both government and Zanu PF.
He was appointed co-Vice-President together with Emmerson Mnangagwa, who is staying in his government-issued house.
Since Mphoko had no government accommodation in the capital, he was booked into the presidential suite at Rainbow Towers Hotel where he has now clocked 18 months.
The presidential suite, located on the 17th Floor, costs $403 inclusive of bed and breakfast for two per day, while lunch and dinner cost $15 each.
Mphoko is reportedly staying with his grandchild in the suite, which significantly increases the cost.
The hotel charges an additional $130 for an extra bedroom in the same suite for two children and Mphoko’s aides.
Early last year, Mphoko’s wife, Laurinda, reportedly rejected three houses, among them a mansion in Ballantyne Park worth $3 million, claiming it was too small for a person of the VP’s stature.
The Mphokos also refused to move into the house once occupied by the late Vice-President Joseph Msika in Mandara, saying they wanted a house of their own.
Mphoko’s demand for an upmarket house is in direct contrast with his predecessor, the late Vice-President John Nkomo, who lived in a modest double-storey government house in Milton Park. Government is, according to the Constitution, obliged to provide State accommodation to Vice-Presidents, who are also entitled to buy the properties at market value when they leave office.