GOVERNMENT has forked out US$3 million on accommodation for the country’s two Vice-Presidents Emmerson Mnangagwa and Phelekezela Mphoko after it bought houses for them in Harare’s affluent suburbs at a time four million people are facing hunger due to severe drought.
By Wongai Zhangazha
Government sources say Mphoko, who rejected several posh houses in Harare’s leafy suburbs, has settled for US$1,9 million mansion in Highlands.
However, the Vice-President will have to cough up US$400 000 from his own pocket to make up the balance as government will only pay US$1,5 million.
Mnangagwa’s house in Borrowdale was also acquired at a cost of US$1,5 million.
A senior government official said the search for Mphoko’s house had been strenuous before he finally settled for the Highlands mansion.
“Government has finally bought a house for Mphoko in Highlands. The house was going for US$1,9 million, but Treasury said it could only afford to pay US$1,5 million. But Mphoko still wanted the house and so he then said that he would pay the difference of US$400 000. He wants the house to be renovated despite already costing so much,” the senior government official said.
“Government also bought a house for Vice-President Mnangagwa in Borrowdale. He got the house as part of his benefits as the country’s co-vice-president.”
Mphoko, who was appointed to vice-president, along with Mnangagwa in December 2014 after the dismissal of former vice-president Joice Mujuru, has been in the headlines since his wife Laurinda rejected three houses, among them a mansion in Harare’s affluent suburb of Ballantyne Park worth US$3 million and in Gunhill, claiming they were too small.
As a result Mphoko has been staying in the executive suite of the five-star Rainbow Towers Hotel in Harare on December 14 2014. He has clocked 461 days in the five-star hotel as of today costing the taxpayer about US$200 000 in bed and breakfast only.
The cost excludes accommodation costs for his security team.
The executive suite costs US$403 inclusive of bed and breakfast for two people per night, while lunch and dinner cost US$15 each.
At one time Mphoko stayed with his grandchild in the suite, which significantly increased the cost. The hotel charges additional US$130 for an extra bedroom in the same suite for two children.
His stay in the hotel at taxpayers’ expense sparked protests from pressure groups and activists in December last year during the International Conference on Aids and STIs in Africa.
On Wednesday, Mabvuku legislator James Maridadi tried to quiz Mphoko on why he was staying at the hotel at taxpayers’ expense. His efforts, however, hit a brick wall after he was told by the Speaker of Parliament Jacob Mudenda to put his questions in writing.
Last October, responding to a question from MDC-T Chitungwiza North MP Godfrey Sithole on government policy regarding accommodation and expenditure by senior government officials, Mnangagwa — who is the Leader of the House — said the issue was not discussed at parliamentary level.
Mnangagwa said: “I would like to tell you that some of these issues are for bigger or more senior people and should not be spoken about. We are working on this issue and we are looking for a house so that the honourable vice-president can be accommodated.”
Director of State Residences in the Office of the President and Cabinet Innocent Tizora had not responded to requests for official comment on the matter at the time of going to print. Through his secretary only identified as Ms Sithole, Tizora promised to comment but did not.
Minister of State in Mphoko’s office Tabetha Kanengoni-Malinga yesterday said she does not have the authority to comment on the accommodation issue as it is an administrative matter which falls outside her purview.