ZIMBABWE – First Lady Grace Mugabe was back on the campaign trail last week, this time in Manicaland Province, where she dished out a lot of trinkets that included soap, shoes and hand bags.
Since her dramatic entry into politics last year, which was fuelled by her personal vendetta against ousted Vice-President Joice Mujuru, Grace has been making huge donations to Zanu PF supporters.
As she addressed the crowd in Chimanimani on Thursday, she gushed: “Today I came loaded like never before.”
Grace went on to dole out four tractors, two planters, four ploughs, two fertiliser spreaders and 240 sprayers for use by Zanu PF supporters in two Manicaland districts.
She told the rally that was televised live on ZTV that the farming equipment came from Belarus, Brazil, China and India as part of government efforts to implement its economic blueprint, ZimAsset.
However, Grace did not disclose the source of beds that she gave to provincial hospitals, 25 000 litres of cooking oil, 3 000 bars of washing soap, 3 120 tablets of bath soap and 240kg washing powder that she also dished out at the rally.
The Zanu PF women’s league boss also gave away 200 boxes of new clothing, 436 school bags, 119 hand bags, 4 358 pairs of shoes and 280 blankets.
In August, the First Lady created a rumpus after she was accused of giving Zanu PF supporters second-hand clothes confiscated from poor Harare vendors.
There has been no attempt by Zanu PF or Grace to explain the source of the clothes to this day.
The First Lady is clearly laying the groundwork for the battle to succeed her husband despite the shrill denials and it appears she will stop at nothing to win the hearts and minds of Zimbabwe’s impoverished electorate.
She is on record attacking non-governmental organisations, especially in Binga, for allegedly using aid to sway poor villagers to vote for the opposition and retarding sustainable development.
Yet it would appear Grace has no qualms about using trinkets to campaign for herself and her husband who is eyeing another term in 2018.
The contradictions do not come as a surprise but the ultimate question Zimbabweans would want answered is: Where does Grace get the money for these grand donations.
The question is a crucial one because as a politician, the First Lady has to be accountable to Zimbabweans.
There is speculation that some of the items being donated at the rallies are seized at the country’s borders, especially from cross border traders who would have failed to pay duty.
According to the country’s laws, such goods should be auctioned by the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority and the proceeds must go to Treasury.
It would be helpful if the government clarified the source of these goods in the interest of transparency.
The explanation would help clear questions about the morality of confiscating goods from Zimbabweans struggling to eke out a living in order to donate to supporters of a political party.
Grace is also not a government official but a ruling party functionary and it should not be her business to distribute farming equipment bought using State resources.
ZimAsset is a government programme and its implementation should never be done on partisan lines as Mugabe took an oath not only to serve those who voted him into power, but all Zimbabweans.
Another curious feature of Grace’s rally was the huge number of government ministers and high-ranking civil servants who abandoned their offices to spend the whole day at a party event.
The First Lady must be told that her ambitions should not come at a cost to government, whose operations are being disrupted by her campaigns.