Zimbabwe to Pay for 20-Person Staff, First-Class Air Travel, Mercedes Benz for Robert Mugabe

Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe, the former political prisoner turned guerrilla leader, swept to power in 1980
AFP/JEKESAI NJIKIZANA

Zimbabwe’s taxpayers found out this week they will be responsible for maintaining a “reasonably sized” mansion, a fleet of luxury vehicles, and a staff of at least 20 people for ousted dictator Robert Mugabe, in addition to paying for first-class air travel around the world and all utility bills.

Mugabe’s staff will include two cooks, laundry personnel, gardeners, and waiters.

The Harare Herald, which the UK Telegraph describes as a state-run publication, announced Thursday that current President Emmerson Mnangagwa signed into law protocol for what the federal government is responsible for when a sitting head of state retires. As Mugabe is the only former head of state in the history of a free Zimbabwe, having served 37 years, the laws currently apply only to him.

Among the “services and allowances” provided to Mugabe will be no less than six “security” personnel, “two drivers, two private secretaries and two aide-de-camp officers or personnel assistance and two office attendants,” as well as “three domestic employees, and (ii) two gardeners, and (iii) two cooks and two waiters and (iv) two laundry persons.”

These domestic workers will be employed at an official, “fully-furnished” residence in Harare, if Mugabe chooses one. If not, he can opt for “payment of a lump sum equal to the value of the private residence.” That residence must be a “reasonably sized house with five bedrooms, a guest wing with three bedrooms, a study, swimming pool, two guardrooms and two garages.”

Mugabe will also receive a fully-furnished office, though it is not clear what he would need one for as a nonagenarian retiree, and up to four fully-paid international private flights with his wife, Grace. The government will pay for a fleet of three vehicles: a Mercedes Benz S500 Series, a “four-wheel drive station wagon” and a “pickup van.” The vehicles will be replaced with brand new ones every five years.

In a clause that is certain to anger the Zimbabweans cheering Mugabe’s ouster, these luxuries will be afforded not just to him, but to Grace Mugabe and their dependents even after 93-year-old Mugabe dies. Grace Mugabe, known as “Gucci Grace” for her lavish lifestyle in a nation known for its abject poverty and failed economy, had claimed before his ouster that Mugabe would continue to rule Zimbabwe after his death. Rumors surrounded her own plans to succeed the president, thwarted by the military and rival Mnangagwa.

As these new provisions will apply to all presidents who serve a full term, Mnangagwa, himself 75 years old, appears to have secured his own future as well as Mugabe’s.

Zimbabwe’s MDC-T opposition party has responded to the provisions laid out for Mugabe with disgust.

“Mugabe’s exit package is actually obscene; how can an impoverished country like Zimbabwe grant such a hefty package to the former dictator, Robert Mugabe?” Obert Gutu, a party spokesperson, told New Zimbabwe this week. “The feeding trough has been extended to Mugabe even in his forced retirement and to think Mugabe looted the country’s resources and externalized billions of United States dollars.”

“It also proves that the Mnangagwa administration is simply an extension of the profligacy of the Mugabe regime,” he added. “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 is sad beyond description.”

Mugabe officially “resigned” in November after a military intervention in which Mugabe and his wife were barricaded in the presidential estate while military officials took to the airwaves denying that the events occurring were a “coup.” At the time, Mnangagwa had fled the country after being ousted from the vice presidency in a move believed to have been orchestrated by Grace Mugabe.

Mugabe initially refused to resign, delivering an incoherent speech asserting his power instead of the resignation speech he promised the military. After impeachment proceedings officially began, Mugabe ultimately relented, reportedly accepting full immunity and $10 million. Mnangagwa established an official day to celebrate the dictator, “Robert Gabriel Mugabe National Youth Day,” shortly after officially becoming president.

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