The First Lady Amai Grace Mugabe’s “Meet the People tours” across all provinces are being financed by “private money” and not taxpayers’ funds, businessman Cde Philip Chiyangwa has said.
Zanu-PF spokesperson Cde Rugare Gumbo left the door open for speculation yesterday after telling a newspaper that, “I really don’t know where the funding is coming from”.
This allowed the paper to speculate that the “mega-rallies, attended by Cabinet ministers and top civil servants, could be feeding from the ailing national fiscus”.
Cde Chiyangwa hit out at the claims, revealing that he chairs a committee which raises funds to sponsor the First Lady’s programmes ahead of her expected assumption of the post of Secretary for Women’s Affairs at the Zanu-PF National People’s Congress in December.
“I chair the committee on funding the First Lady’s programmes,” he said.
“We have sponsors. If there is anything that has been said about money, it’s private money, it’s a fund that was brewed during the Women’s League Conference following the chaotic Youth Conference.”
Cde Chiyangwa was speaking in Gwanda, Matabeleland South, where the First Lady addressed the sixth rally of her national tour.
“It became clear to us that unless we put together a more formidable position regarding funding, the whole programme related to the secretary for women’s affairs designate, we’ll have problems,” he said.
Cde Chiyangwa, who made his fortune in real estate, added: “There is no question of how much we’ve spent. People who are spending this money are willing to spend it to support her.
“This is money nobody should even talk to me about, or ask me. It’s funds that will continue to flow until her programme gets to December.”
Cde Chiyangwa declined to name other members of the committee.
“I have identified myself as the chairman,” he said curtly.
President Mugabe’s spokesman Mr George Charamba added: “Comrade Gumbo’s ignorance of the funding does not mean that the rallies are funded by the State.”
Cde Charamba pointed out that the First Lady was a “woman of means” with an impressive business portfolio, adding that her security — which has meant she uses an Air Force helicopter to reach certain venues — was rightly being handled by State agencies.
“As the First Lady, we look at issues of security, convenience and availability of the plane and these are benefits that ordinarily the First Family would receive,” he said.
“Wherever she goes, private or public, she should have security and her staff.”