Zimbabwe VP leaves hotel after incurring $620,000 bill
Thursday September 15 2016
One of Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe’s two deputies has left a top Harare hotel after two years amid protests by disgruntled taxpayers.
Mr Phelekezela Mphoko reportedly left the Rainbow Towers Hotel (formerly Sheraton Hotel) at the end of last month after spending 613 days at the presidential suite, arguing that he had no suitable accommodation in Harare.
According to reports, the vice-president blew at least $620,000 in hotel bills after he checked in on December 10, 2014, only to leave last month to stay in a $2 million mansion.
He moved to Harare’s leafy Highlands suburb after the government completed renovations and security upgrades.
Mr Mphoko, a former ambassador to South Africa, Botswana and Russia, among other countries, was appointed by President Mugabe in December 2014.
His appointment followed a purge in the ruling Zanu-PF party that claimed the scalps of the then Vice-President Joice Mujuru and several ministers.
Mrs Mujuru and her supporters were accused of plotting to assassinate the 92-year-old leader.
Mr Mphoko, a businessman who partly owns the retail chain Choppies, comes from the second largest city of Bulawayo, about 440km from Harare.
Soon after his appointment, the former diplomat was offered a house at another posh suburb in the capital, but his wife Laurinda rejected it saying it did not fit his new status.
The government then settled on the Highlands property, but Mr Mphoko could not move in immediately as the property required extensive renovations and security upgrades.
However, the vice-president had become a target of Zimbabweans protesting against wasteful government expenditure and corruption.
Some activists, led by Mr Stern Zworwadza, in July stormed the hotel demanding that Mr Mphoko must leave.
Mr Zworwadza on Tuesday appeared before a Harare magistrate facing charges of threatening to burn the Rainbow Towers Hotel if the vice-president did not leave the facility.
The Rainbow Towers Hotel manager, Mr Trythings Mutyandasvika, refused to disclose the amount of money Mr Mphoko spent when asked by Mr Zworwadza’s lawyers in court.
The Zimbabwean government is struggling to pay civil servants on time due to a long running economic crisis and close to a million people were in need of food aid after a severe drought.
Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa last week proposed to scrap annual bonuses for civil servants and to reduce the salaries of government workers to save costs, but the proposals were rejected by President Mugabe.