Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe has come under heavy criticism from opposition parties and analysts for throwing a lavish State banquet for Cabinet ministers, legislators and top Zanu PF officials at his official residence on Monday at a time most citizens are bracing for their worst festive season ever.
Mugabe’s opponents said the merry-making confirmed his insensitivity to the plight of the impoverished Zimbabweans facing hunger and massive unemployment levels triggered by a poor rainy season, misrule and a comatose economy.
Speaking to NewsDay in separate interviews yesterday, political parties and analysts said Mugabe’s decision to pamper his lieutenants with a State-funded jamboree when civil servants and pensioners were yet to get their wages, also showed that the Zanu PF leader was now more concerned with retaining political power at the expense of serving the electorate.
“Mugabe is not at all bothered by the fact that more than 80% of the people are living on less than $1 per day,” opposition MDC-T spokesperson, Obert Gutu said.
“This is the major reason he isalways hosting lavish and expensive parties that are bankrolled by the near bankrupt Treasury. The Zanu PF regime is a classic example of a dictatorship gone awry.”
Mugabe, justifying his decision to throw a party, told his cronies on Monday: “We succeeded in convincing our people to stand by us and accept these challenges as challenges to our nation together.”
Contacted for comment, Zanu PF spokesperson, Simon Khaya Moyo said there was nothing wrong in Mugabe hosting a party for his followers and thanking Zimbabweans for being resilient.
“In any case, the MDC-T is free to throw its party to its supporters,” he said.
“The President is right, we actually thank him for appreciating that the people of Zimbabwe are very resilient. Zimbabwe is not burning, it is the MDC-T that is burning. We have just successfully completed our conference in Victoria Falls where we told the nation that the economy is picking up. It is not us who said so, its reports from international monetary institutions.
“If the MDC-T is burning, then surely it will not be our responsibility.”
Zimbabwe is currently facing a debilitating economic crisis that has forced most companies to close shop or retrench staff to remain afloat. About 30 000 workers in both private and public enterprises had their contracts terminated on three months’ notice since July this year following a Supreme Court ruling giving employers the privilege to effect job cuts without paying retrenchment packages.
People’s Democratic Party spokesperson, Jacob Mafume said Mugabe had exhibited a cognitive dissonance with the people.
“He has not given his government workers bonuses, he was in another extravagant party in Victoria Falls and ironically, he authored the problems that stole the Christmas cheer from the people.”
Political analyst, Takura Zhangazha said Mugabe’s State House luncheon showed lack of sensitivity to many Zimbabweans, who cannot make merry during the Christmas holidays due to economic hardships.
“Mugabe is more concerned with political power than people-centred utility of political power,” he said.
Zhangazha said Mugabe has done little to show that he is keen to address macro-economic issues affecting the population, such as ease of doing business to improve the economy.
Alexander Rusero, a political analyst, concurred with Zhangazha, saying Mugabe was more concerned with consolidating power rather than the economic situation affecting the country.
He said Mugabe, like many people, feared his party would disintegrate due to factional fighting and he has to thank his foot soldiers for holding it together till today, albeit with some internal squabbles.
“It is one thing for a President to prioritise the economy, but political power will surely come first. Mugabe has to thank his cronies for helping the party survive the titanic waters it is swimming in,” Rusero said.
“The party was a gesture to thank his foot soldiers for loyalty. It is in the nature of politics to prioritise power. There have been open fights in Zanu PF, but we still have a leader who commands loyalty.”
Rusero said Mugabe was unlike the new generation of leaders like Tanzania’s John Magufuli, who early this month cancelled his country’s independence celebrations and channelled all State resources reserved for the event towards service delivery.