By Gift Phiri
President Robert Mugabe has come under fire for snacking on imported products that his government banned, with the opposition saying the move exposes the nonagenarian’s high level of hypocrisy.
They said what further exposes his pretence is his penchant for using foreign hospitals and sending his children to study abroad while shunning local institutions.
Celebrating his 93rd birthday on Saturday in the Matobo resort area — 30 kilometres from Bulawayo — the continent’s oldest leader snacked on imported American sour cream and onion flavoured Lay’s potato crisps while sipping on South African Valpre mineral water.
This comes as his government last June imposed a ban — gazetted under Statutory Instrument (SI) 64 of 2016 — on the importation of basic goods, including bottled water and potato crisps, most of which come from South Africa, among many others.
The ban crippled informal employment, whereby people imported cheaper imports for resale in Zimbabwe, where many long-suffering and jobless masses had turned to in order to eke out a living.
MDC spokesperson Obert Gutu said: “In his (Mugabe) scheme of things, SI 64 of 2016 is only meant to affect the majority of poor Zimbabweans, and certainly not him and members of his greedy and corrupt inner circle.
“This man has always been a fake revolutionary; a far cry from genuine revolutionaries such as Thomas Sankara and Che Guevara,” he said, adding that Zimbabweans deserve a “government that genuinely loves and cares about the people . . . (and is) accountable and transparent”.
People’s Democratic Party (PDP) spokesperson Jacob Mafume said it is this kind of policy inconsistency that has plagued his 37-year rule.
“Not only does he (Mugabe) munch and drink imported water, he also sends his children to outside universities and he is treated by outside hospitals. He, like all other African leaders, tends to use national airlines as ambulances to foreign hospitals,” he said.
Spokesperson of Welshman Ncube’s MDC, Kurauone Chihwayi, added that Mugabe displayed hypocrisy of the highest order, saying “he is known for indicating right and turning left”.
“He needs to humble himself and must eat maputi (popcorn) and other local foodstuffs he has limited us all to,” he said.
However, a United Kingdom-based Zimbabwean academic, George Shire, said: “It was his birthday, he can eat what he likes.”
According to the Government Gazette, importers of the listed products have to apply for special licences and justify why they need them.
Zanu PF youth leader Kudzai Chipanga told the party that SI 64 was paying dividends, with some firms recording increased demand for their products and boosting local production.
Buy Zimbabwe lobby group, which cheered the import restrictions last year saying they will push retailers to procure stock from the local market, declined to comment on Mugabe snacking on the banned goods.
“I reserve my comment,” its chief economist Kipson Gundani said. Daily News