By Dylan Murambgi
Harare, June 24, 2016 – A dozen rights activists and vendors on Friday staged a demonstration at Harare’s Rainbow Towers hotel demanding Vice President Phelekezela Mphoko’s immediate exit from a hotel he has virtually converted into a permanent home for the past 15 months.
The activists, among them women carrying their babies, held placards at the hotel entrance denouncing Mphoko for remaining ensconced in an expensive hotel while millions wallowed in poverty.
Mphoko, originally from Bulawayo, has never known a government residence since his surprise appointment as one of the two vice presidents in December 2014.
His hotel bill is estimated to now have reached hundreds over $300 000 in scarce taxpayers’ money.
The former Zimbabwean ambassador to South Africa is reported to have declined three government house offers which he and his wife dismissed as unsuitable for the VP’s status.
National Vendors Union of Zimbabwe (NAVUZ) chairperson, Stan Zvorwadza, said it was unacceptable that Mphoko remained holed up in a hotel even when a $3.5 million house had been offered to him by taxpayers.
“We spent $3.5 million on a house for him but today he is refusing to stay in that house, with so many bedrooms which are far much bigger than the bedroom he is using at the hotel.
“We are saying he must vacate the hotel now or we will stay here until he leaves,” Zvorwadza said.
The demonstration was however quashed by button wielding anti-riot police who bundled Zvorwadza and another protester into their truck.
The two were taken to Harare where they were still being detained late Friday afternoon.
Some of the protesters who spoke to RadioVOP accused Mphoko for alleged selfishness and concentrating on his own comfort at a time government was failing to pay civil servants on time.
Asked about his colleague’s continued stay in a hotel, Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa has refused to commit himself to a credible answer, at one point saying that the government house former Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai is occupying was not suitable for a VP.
National Assembly Speaker Jacob Mudenda has also blocked legislators from grilling Mphoko over his extravagant lifestyle when the VP was in parliament few months ago.