VICE-PRESIDENT Phelekezela Mphoko finally moved to his US$2 million mansion in the leafy suburb of Highlands in Harare after splurging US$620 000 in taxpayers’ funds in hotel bills for the 613 days he stayed in the presidential suite of the Rainbow Towers Hotel in Harare, the Zimbabwe Independent has learnt.
Sources said Mphoko moved to number 4 Corfe Road, Highlands, in the capital a fortnight ago. He booked into the hotel soon after his appointment as the vice-president on December 10 2014.
He was staying at the upmarket Meikles Hotel prior to moving to the Rainbow Towers.
The cash-strapped government was paying a US$1 023 bill a day for his stay. The amount covered expenses for bed, breakfast and dinner.
To date Mphoko has gobbled US$619 099 in hotel bills at a time government is struggling to pay civil servants’ salaries. An average civil servant earns US$500, but government has been struggling to meet its salary obligations due to weakening revenues triggered by massive company closures and weak commodity prices.
Mphoko spent a long time holed up in the hotel, after he and his wife Laurinda rejected several houses, including two in the leafy suburbs of Ballantyne Park and Gunhill on the grounds that they were too small and ordinary and thus unsuitable for the vice-president’s status.
After a long search, government found a mansion for him in Highlands. The house cost US$1,9 million and Mphoko — who runs businesses, including a supermarket chain — topped up with over US$400 000. When complete and everything has been considered, the house will cost at least US$2 million.
The government also spent US$1,5 million to purchase a house for Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa in Borrowdale at the same time it released funds for Mphoko’s house.
Before moving into his mansion, Mphoko insisted there should be renovations on the property and upgrades to the security system.
The government also spent a significant amount of money to furnish Mphoko’s house, but his wife rejected the furniture before requesting that furniture of her choice be purchased from South Africa.
“The Office of the President and Cabinet, however, turned down the request because the furniture which was bought from TV Sales and Home was considered to be good enough,” said a government official.
Senior officials said government wanted Mphoko to move out of the hotel as soon as possible given surging public outrage over his long stay there and the attendant irresponsible wastage of public resources in the process.
On several occasions protestors besieged the Rainbow Towers demanding that Mphoko move out as he was gobbling hundreds of thousands of dollars in taxpayers’ money in hotel bills at a time when government was failing to pay its bloated civil service workforce.