By Jeffrey Muvundusi
Former vice president Phelekezela Mphoko is now planning to approach the courts to force the government to release his terminal benefits.
This comes one-and-a-half years after his inglorious exit from the government, which was triggered by a stunning military coup in November 2017 — which also ended former president Robert Mugabe’s lengthy and ruinous rule.
Mphoko is demanding, for life, a salary equivalent to that of a sitting VP, bodyguards, an office and a government vehicle. In contrast to the treatment that has been given to the much-derided Mphoko, Mugabe was given an eye-watering exit package when he fell from power — including benefits commensurate with those of a sitting head of State.
Details of the frail nonagenarian’s massive handshake were announced in the government gazette a month after his ouster, in December 2017 — under a presidential pension and retirement packages notice. “We haven’t made any progress at all since the last time. What we have to do now is go to court since we are not making any progress in the discussions with regards to his pension.
“We have been going round in circles and haven’t achieved any progress,” Mphoko’s high profile lawyer, Welshman Ncube, told the Daily News yesterday. Previously, Ncube had said the government was conceding that his client was entitled to a pension, but was haggling over the quantum of his benefits.
“We have been communicating back and forth … the communication we have so far with the ministry of Justice through the advice of the attorney general is that they appear to be conceding that he is entitled to his pension but continue to dispute his entitlement to other benefits like security, office and others,” Ncube said.
Mphoko is said not to be deserving of such benefits because he had been removed from his position before he completed a full term.
His term was supposed to end in July 2018 — the same time that Parliament was to be dissolved to pave way for last year’s elections.
According to Statutory Instrument 86 of 2015, a VP who serves at least one term in office can enjoy exit packages such as those being demanded by Mphoko.
Ncube has argued that provisions in the Presidential Pensions Act contradict provisions in the country’s Constitution, which do not require a former VP or president to have completed a full term.
Mugabe, who ruled Zimbabwe with an iron fist for close to four decades, “resigned” from the top office on November 21, 2017 — hours after Parliament had initiated damaging 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. The now very frail nonagenarian was later given a lucrative golden handshake by President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government.
“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,” read the notice in the government gazette.
The publicised raft of benefits detailed the number of staff at Mugabe’s disposal, as well as office and accommodation arrangements — including a private residence on a 5 000 square metre piece of land; comprehensive medical cover for him, his wife and children, as well as transport that includes top-of-the-range vehicles.
Mugabe and his erratic wife Grace are also entitled to diplomatic passports and private, first class international air travel, up to a maximum of four trips per year. Mugabe is also to 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, government is also obliged to replace all the vehicles after five years. The 95-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”. DailyNews