By Sij Ncube
Harare, June 28, 2016 – JUST when the heat was becoming too intense for his comfort, Vice President Phelekezela Mphoko finally broke his silence this week, telling all and sundry his 15 month stay at a local hotel did not cause any strain to the tax payer.
Mphoko said Rainbow Towers Hotel which has virtually become his permanent home was partly owned by government.
He also had the temerity to tell everyone his hotel stay was just like former Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s continued stay at a Highlands mansion owned by government.
Analysts say Mphoko should ordinarily be ashamed he was spending civil servants’ salaries on a hotel stay as opposed to thumping his nose and showing so much disdain at the very people who fund his giant hotel bill.
Records also differ with Mphoko’s claims he was staying virtually for free at the hotel as the government had minority shareholding in the hotel while Tsvangirai pays monthly rentals to the government.
Critics maintain it is wrong for the VP to remain holed up in a hotel even if accommodation was for free, pointing out that the abuse of state property by the ruling Zanu PF was way too much.
They go on to cite numerous examples of such abuse, among them, the continued commandeering of a broke ZBC to provide live coverage of Zanu PF events such as live Grace Mugabe rallies.
In fact, critics say Mphoko has used his hotel episode to inadvertently confirm the abuse of state resources by Zanu PF including Mugabe’s endless trips outside on an Air Zimbabwe jet which are estimated to have cost Zimbabwe more than $50 million in the past six months.
Analysts have roundly condemned the sheer display of extravagance at a time the government is failing to pay its civil servants, including soldiers and police.
Bhekithemba Mhlanga, a UK based journalist turned political analyst, says Mphoko’s behaviour is not surprising as it typifies the disdain Zanu PF leadership has on Zimbabweans.
Mhlanga says the arrogance was derived from political power and a belief of entitlement.
“What tends to happen with the Mphokos of this world is that they get drunk with power and history leading them to make irrational and risky decisions such as he is making. He forgets that he has no public mandate for his position or what he is – it is all reliant on patronage,” he said.
Ricky Mukonza, a holder of a doctorate in Public Administration at South Africa’s Venda University of Science and Technology, concurs that Mphoko’s arrogance typifies the general approach of Zanu PF leaders.
“There is a sense of entitlement to public resources coupled with unmitigated contempt towards the public. All this contempt is based on their (Zanu PF leaders) sense of perceived invincibility since they control the state apparatus,” said Mukonza.
“Added to that, is the failure by citizens to claim their space in the governance of the country. Until and unless the Zanu PF leadership is challenged and moved from its comfort zone, we are likely to witness more acts of contempt towards the public.”
As anger escalates on the VPs perceived overstay in a luxurious hotel, there are moves by Zanu PF to launch a boycott businesses associated with him particularly targeting Choppies Stores in which his family holds shares.
However, public opinion remains divided over the issue with sympathisers pointing out that Choppies has created much-needed employment in a country where unemployment is hovering at around 90 percent. Choppies employs an estimated 13 000 workers.
Mukonza believes boycotting his business would be a great strategy, pointing out it would weaken him economically and consequently politically.
“However, this requires a coordinated approach that should include role-players from across the social, political and religious divide in the country,” he said.
But Mhlanga says it is way too early to make the boycott call, saying there are too many variables in the air for now.