THAT the cash-strapped Zimbabwe government needs in excess of US$1,5 billion to feed about three million people until the next agricultural season — but is nonetheless mobilising US$800 000 for President Robert Mugabe’s birthday bash in drought-hit Masvingo — highlights how insensitive the Zanu PF government has become.
Only on Tuesday, Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa made an appeal for food assistance from development partners, the private sector, faith-based organisations and individuals in view of the fact that the government does not have adequate resources to mitigate the effects of the El Nino induced drought.
Ironically however, on Wednesday the ruling Zanu PF’s politburo, which expended most of its energy on factionalism-related matters, also received a report on preparations for the 21st February Movement to be held in drought-stricken Masvingo on February 27.
The bash is going ahead in spite of the fact that the country is facing a food emergency and a severe liquidity crunch, which has led to company closures and job loses. Indeed, the government is stubbornly continuing to turn a deaf ear to Zimbabweans who are questioning the logic of having such lavish celebrations at a time the economy continues on a downward spiral. But again, this is a government whose commitment to the poor and vulnerable members of society has been diminishing over the years.
By allowing the celebrations to be held despite the suffering of the masses, Mugabe like 18th century French queen Marie Antoinette, is showing he has lost empathy for the masses or worse still that he totally disregards their views and feelings.
Mugabe, could have used the 21st February Movement celebrations to show that he was still in touch with the people by, for instance, raising funds for charity or directing that funds raised for his bash be channeled towards feeding the hungry.
But like a leader with a warped sense of priority, he is asking well-wishers to feed the country while he looks for resources to celebrate his 92nd birthday.
It is clear that Mugabe and his officials are in urgent need of their own equivalent of the Magufuli Moment, so-named after Tanzanian President John Magufuli who has eschewed activities associated with extravagance, including the country’s independence celebrations, choosing instead to channel meager resources to more important developmental programmes and fighting cholera.
After all, what is there to celebrate in an environment of hunger which has been set against the backdrop of ever-increasing joblessness and grinding poverty.
As one legislator suggested, Mugabe could do the more honourable thing by foregoing the annual shindig which benefits no one except that it is used as a platform for his hangers on to fall over each in a bootlicking frenzy.
The stubborn reality is that the celebration is a total waste of scarce resources and totally unnecessary.