THE drama and furore over Vice-President Phelekezela Mphoko’s two-year stay in a luxurious suite at the five-star Rainbow Towers Hotel at taxpayers’ expense should be a lesson to government that it must stop such wasteful expenditure.
Candid Comment,Owen Gagare
His prolonged stay at one of Harare’s most prestigious hotels has attracted criticism from a wide section of Zimbabweans culminating in protests.
Mphoko’s lifestyle, though, is a reflection of the government’s insensitivity and detachment from the plight of ordinary Zimbabweans who are bearing the brunt of years of economic mismanagement, which has resulted in a large section of the working class losing jobs.
The government has also failed to provide employment for the bulk of people graduating from tertiary institutions annually.
Given the harsh economic climate prevailing in the country, Zimbabweans expect government to be leading by example by introducing massive cost-cutting measures by, among other things, limiting foreign travel and luxuries such as expensive vehicles as well as wining and dining in expensive hotels.
It therefore defies logic why Mphoko and other government officials, including the Deputy Speaker of Parliament Mabel Chinomona, would choose to stay in luxurious hotels when the cash-strapped government is failing to pay its workers on time.
In Mphoko’s case, he has rejected several upmarket houses on the grounds that they do not meet his stature as vice-president or that security installations at the premises are not good enough.
Although the government has bought a house for him in Highlands, he has delayed moving into the premises insisting on renovations to match his status.
He is surely a different breed of politician from the likes of the late former vice-president John Nkomo who lived in a modest house in Milton Park. Former vice-presidents Joshua Nkomo and Joseph Msika also lived in modest houses in Mandara.
Mphoko’s argument that his stay at the hotel is justified because the Rainbow Tourism Group, which owns Rainbow Towers, is owned by government is bankrupt because it is public knowledge that the company is listed on the Zimbabwe Stock Exchange.
It has many and diverse shareholders, including Nicholas van Hoogstraten who has 32% shareholding.
After all Mphoko is not staying for free. The public is paying for his comfort.
Granted the vice-president is entitled to decent accommodation, but surely it cannot take more than two years for the government to find a suitable house for him.
It also boggles the mind why security upgrades and other renovations would take such a long time.
It is obvious that Mphoko is bargaining for a huge and expensive house which will become part of his package when he leaves office.
Such selfishness and insensitivity by senior officials should be tolerated and is yet another piece of evidence that Mugabe and his government officials have lost touch with the masses and reality.