HARARE – Treasury has increased the vote allocation to President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s office by $56 million — in a development analysts say is partly geared towards taking care of the exit packages of deposed former leader Robert Mugabe and former vice president Phelekezela Mphoko.
Mugabe is reportedly due for a $10 million windfall as part of his exit benefits, while Mphoko is also constitutionally entitled to some as yet unspecified benefits. In addition, the country’s spy agency, the Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO), also falls under the President’s Office. Its
former director-general, Happyton Bonyongwe — who had served more than a decade at its helm — is apparently also due to receive his service benefits, as well as several other operatives who are due to retire next year.
Bonyongwe was appointed Justice minister in October by Mugabe, but was cut loose by Mnangagwa in his new Cabinet which was announced just over a week ago. In his 2018 National Budget presented to a joint sitting of Parliament last Thursday, Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa allocated $232 million to the Office of the President and Cabinet (OPC) — compared to last year’s $176 million.
With reasons and expansive explanations never provided for the presidential budget, analysts told the Daily News yesterday that Chinamasa’s decision in this regard was most likely influenced by the need to pay the due pension benefits, as well as the national elections due next year.
Mugabe will receive his generous $10 million golden handshake apparently as part of the negotiations which led to his ouster last month, and whereby he was also granted immunity from prosecution.
The frail nonagenarian, who ruled Zimbabwe with an iron fist for 37 years, “resigned” from the top office on November 21 — hours after Parliament had initiated 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.
Former Finance minister, Tendai Biti, also said yesterday that the huge payout to Mugabe would be a major driver of the country’s budget deficit.
“They have to monetise the peace,” Biti said. “By that I am talking about the huge payouts that have to be met, including $10 million which we know will be paid to former president Robert Mugabe. So, monetising the peace will involve the signing of huge payouts so that the new order can be accepted by the old order.”
“In our view, the budget deficit in 2018 will be much worse than the 15 percent of 2017, and we calculate that the budget deficit will be $3 billion or at least 18 percent of GDP.
“And if we maintain the budget deficit in the same unacceptable levels as existing now, it means the same distortions that are currently playing out will continue evolving in 2018. So we will see huge raids on the central bank,” Biti predicted.
“This is basically for the CIO. This is a securocratic budget because we are being led by a securocratic government, and it’s not surprising. They are not walking the talk,” he added.
People’s Democratic Party (PDP) spokesperson Jacob Mafume said there was “no need for the government to spend all that money on one office”.
“They need to get rid of the imperial presidency and walk the talk of a lean government. If the president spends more, how does he expect the others to spend less? He must not squander the opportunity to be different by mimicking Mugabe,” he said.
Political analyst, Maxwell Saungweme, concurred with Biti’s sentiments saying President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government wanted to consolidate its power.
“If you look at that, plus the high Defence and Home Affairs budgets, then you see that the priorities of this president are to consolidate power. It’s a power consolidation budget more than an austerity or service delivery budget.
“There is also no prize for guessing that part of the presidency’s budget is for campaigns for next year. Mnangagwa is proving to be an enigmatic president who pleases those that don’t pay attention.
“The budget also pleases imperial powers bent on siphoning Zimbabwe’s natural resources, but ignores struggling social services such as health and higher education,” Saungweme told the Daily News.
Chinamasa allocated a bigger vote to the ministry of Home Affairs and Culture, as well as the ministry of Defence, Security and War Veterans than the ministry of Health and Child Care.
Home Affairs and Culture was given $435 million; Defence, Security and War Veterans $420 million, while the critical Health and Child Care ministry was allocated $409 million.