By Farayi Machamire
Deposed former president Robert Mugabe’s eye-watering exit package has triggered widespread anger among ordinary Zimbabweans and opposition groups alike — who say it is outrageous that a man who presided over the country’s political and economic collapse should “cream it” like this.
Mugabe, who ruled Zimbabwe with an iron fist for close to four decades, “resigned” from the country’s highest office on November 21 this year — hours after Parliament had initiated stunning proceedings to impeach him.
This happened after he had refused to leave office during eight tense days that began with the military intervening in the governance of the country.
In this week’s publicised raft of benefits that he is set to receive, the government detailed the number of staff that will be at Mugabe’s disposal, as well as his office and accommodation entitlements — including a private residence on a 5 000 square metres piece of land; comprehensive medical cover for him, his wife and children; as well as transport that includes top-of-the-range vehicles.
The Daily News further understands that Mugabe’s exit package does not include the $10 million which was dangled to the soon-to-be 94-year-old as part of the negotiations which led to his ouster last month — and which also culminated in him being granted immunity from prosecution.
“As a lawyer I am concerned about the legality of this package because only Parliament controls budget and this is an appropriation from a Consolidated Revenue Fund … that kind of appropriation cannot be made without Parliament’s approval.
“It cannot be made at the discretion of the president. Part of the reason why sitting presidents do not want to step down is that they fear for the life after, which this package now guarantees. It’s excessive,” former Finance minister Tendai Biti told the Daily News yesterday.
“The other aspect that is also worrying is that the Statutory Instrument has a cut-off date of 1987, which means it’s catering for Mugabe alone.
But we had another president Canaan Banana. Why discriminate against him? Why are there no benefits for poor Banana’s family? Why are we not also catering for former prime ministers as well? This is why we get worried by this new regime.
They call themselves a new order, but it’s no new order at all,” Biti thundered further.
Opposition leader and former prime minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s MDC also said Mugabe did not deserve his jaw-dropping exit package.
“Mugabe’s exit package is obscene. How can an impoverished country like Zimbabwe grant such a hefty package to the former dictator … Mugabe?
This is all about placating Mugabe and it’s not about protecting the interests of the majority of Zimbabweans. The feeding trough has been extended to Mugabe even in his forced retirement.
And to think Mugabe looted the country’s resources and externalised billions of United States dollars!
“This boggles the mind. It also proves that the Mnangagwa administration is simply an extension of the profligacy of the Mugabe regime.
This is all about protecting the interests of the political elite so that Mnangagwa will also enjoy the same benefits when he retires from the presidency. It’s sad beyond description,” MDC spokesperson Obert Gutu said.
Veteran economist John Robertson did not believe that the package would benefit the whole Mugabe family, adding that it could be a short-term arrangement for the sole benefit of the nonagenarian.
‘‘It’s very hard to interpret the package, but the people who put it together may believe that it won’t be for long … maybe three or four years.
I don’t think it will extend beyond that and may not extend to his wife who is also on the list of the people suspected of externalising foreign currency.
“She may be asked to first return all the money she may have externalised before she is granted this package in the case of Mugabe’s death.
But the main story is that it (exit package) can’t be for very long,” Robertson told the Daily News.
Student leader Zivai Mhetu called for a re-alignment of the Presidential Pension and Retirement Packages Act, so that it was commensurate with the economic situation obtaining in the country.
“We don’t want our former president to live a life of misery after serving his time, but in a country where many are languishing in poverty we cannot afford to be fuelling Mugabe’s three cars without a limit, buying him three new cars every five years, building him a new house on a 5 000 square metres piece of land, as well as paying his electricity and telephone bills.
“If Mugabe had the people at heart he would refuse some of these perks. But then again, this is a selfish leader who clung onto power when the people no longer wanted him. I don’t see him being that noble,” Mhetu said.
In last Friday’s public notice, the government announced that: “The president, in terms of section 3(1) of the Presidential Pension and Retirement Benefits Act, hereby makes the following notice:
“A former president of Zimbabwe, who has at any time since the 31st December 1987, been president of Zimbabwe for at least one full term of office, shall be entitled to the enjoyment of the following services, facilities and allowances — staff (a) the services of — (i) such security personnel as may be determined by the president, but no less than six, and to be increased by such number as may be determined by the president whenever and for such period as the need arises; and (ii) two drivers and (iii) two private secretaries; and (iv) two aide-de-camp officers or personal assistants; and (v) two office attendants.”
Mugabe and Grace are also entitled to diplomatic passports and private, first class international air travel up-to a maximum of four trips per year.
The nonagenarian will also receive a Mercedes Benz S500 series or any equivalent vehicle, one four-wheel drive station wagon or an equivalent vehicle, and one pick up van.
Apart from maintaining and fuelling the vehicles, the government will also be obliged to replace all the vehicles after five years.
The 93-year-old also has the option of maintaining his long motorcade after the government notified that Mugabe was entitled to the provision of “such adequate number of vehicles as may be determined by the president and which must be put at the disposal of the security personnel and other staff serving the former president”.
Mugabe will also be entitled to a landline telephone, a cellphone, two computers and “such other office equipment and materials as may be determined by the president”.
In terms of accommodation, the former Zanu PF supremo will be provided with “a fully furnished official residence at any place in Harare”.
The housing benefits will also include any such befitting request made by Mugabe within two months of leaving office.
According to the gazette, Mugabe may request the construction of a single private residence at any place of his choice in Zimbabwe, and it will be granted.
If he so chooses, he can also request for the payment of a lump sum which is equal or equivalent to the value of the private residence he so desires.
“In the case of his official residence … if the president (Mugabe) dies, his or her surviving spouse, or if there is no surviving spouse, his or her dependent child must continue to be provided with suitable state residential accommodation until – (i) in the case of a surviving spouse, the date on which he or she dies or remarries, whichever event occurs first; and (ii) in the case of the dependent child, the date which he or she dies or the date on which he or she attains the age of 21 years, whichever event occurs first,” the Government Gazette read.
The private residence is to be constructed on land not exceeding 5 000 square metres and the residence itself may not exceed a reasonably-sized house with five bedrooms, a guest wing with three bedrooms, a study, a swimming pool, two guardrooms and two garages.
In connection with the residence, government will on behalf of Mugabe employ three domestic workers, two gardeners, two cooks, two waiters and two laundry personnel.
Other benefits will see Mugabe getting an entertainment allowance as determined by Mnangagwa.
Mugabe will also be entitled to payment of telephone expenses, water and electricity charges. DailyNews