AT a time the vast majority of Zimbabweans are wallowing in abject poverty, First Lady Grace Mugabe’s extravagant birthday bash, screened live on TV, was in bad taste and insensitive to the citizenry struggling daily for survival.
Candid Comment with Stewart Chabwinja
Many could only drool at the garish site of a chunk of the country’s high society wining and dining while parting with scarce thousands — more than US$50 000 in the case of one Prophet Walter Magaya — in the name of “charity” and “philanthropy”.
The merrymaking and praise-singing came against the backdrop of shocking dismissals of thousands of what’s left of the country’s workforce following a Supreme Court judgment; the eviction of teeming vendors from the city centre; and continued general all-round economic decay.
In a country that occupies the top echelons of the global corruption ladder, questions arise as to the source of some of the cash splashed around with reckless abandon. Some tables of 10 guests were going for as much as US$100 000.
Even CEOs of the country’s insolvent parastatals, where workers are going for several months without pay, made the who’s-who guest list at the ostentatious function, in addition to placing fawning congratulatory messages in the media. Was the money splashed by such CEOs not public funds, rather than personal cash?
And are their workers not a charity case in themselves, so to speak, given the non-payment of salaries? Charity must after all begin at home.
More questions quickly spring to mind. Was the money only being raised for charity, since prominent organisers of the party were family members? And how much of the funds will really go to charity, seeing that Grace does not appear to be accountable to anyone in the absence of overt structures to audit the proceeds?
By her own admission on Wednesday while distributing some of the more than US$3 million raised, charity work has serious temptations, and “I am talking from experience”, she was quoted as saying.
There is belief that contrary to the precepts of charity and philanthropy, many of Grace’s guests were not present on their own volition, but to curry favour with the First Lady whose political stock has dramatically risen to the extent that the country’s Vice-Presidents regularly consult her for advice, taking notes.
Not surprising, given the fear she now invokes given the vicious role she played in dispatching vice-president Joice Mujuru, Grace is now deemed ungracious and uncharitable — excuse the pun — with those who dare cross her path.
It is for that reason that some within Zanu PF have been using her name as camouflage for selfish ends, including fraud and other corrupt activities — with several such cases before the courts.
Amid all the suffering in Zimbabwe it behoves society’s privileged to go about their business in a measured manner.