|OPPOSITION parties have described as “criminal”, First Lady Grace Mugabe’s abuse of a $98 million loan Zimbabwe secured from Brazil to fund what is increasingly seen as bid to succeed her 91-year-old husband.
Sources told NewZimbabwe.com that the South American nation was irritated by Harare’s decision to use for partisan political purposes a facility meant to import agricultural equipment and pay farmers owed millions by the Grain Marketing Board.
Opposition parties said they were actively exploring the possibility of a collective court action to stop the First Lady’s “illegal and very criminal” vote buying campaign using a State debt which ordinary Zimbabweans would have to repay.
Grace is thought to be preparing the ground to take over from President Robert Mugabe.
“Heaven forbid! Heaven forbid if that woman becomes the next president of this country,” former finance minister and People’s Democratic Party leader Tendai Biti told NewZimbabwe.com in an interview.
In May Zimbabwe secured a $98.6 million loan from Brazil under that country’s More Food for Africa programme with some $38 million used to import hundreds of tractors for local farmers.
Grace Mugabe has however, been donating the tractors to Zanu PF supporters at party rallies she has staged in Manicaland and Mashonaland Central provinces
“The Brazilians are pretty irritated as the tractors being handed out by Grace are part of the consignment from Brazil, secured with a soft $98 million loan over several years.
“This was part of a development program they do in several countries,” said an official who spoke to NewZimbabwe.com but asked not to be named.
Zanu PF and government spokespersons could not be reached for comment but the opposition was united and scathing in its condemnation of what they described as illegal conduct by the First Lady.
“This is vote buying, it’s illegal and also very criminal,” Douglas Mwonzora of the MDC-T told NewZimbabwe.com on Saturday.
“The First Lady has even said that she is giving these donations in order to entice people to vote for Zanu PF.
Biti added: “It shows you that Grace Mugabe is on a campaign to become president and this is just $98m kit in her arsenal.
“It’s a reflection of how bankrupt and dysfunctional the regime has become.”
Scheme negotiated by GNU
Biti said the loan deal was negotiated by the last coalition government between Zanu PF and the MDC parties.
“That is a scheme that some of us negotiated during the GNU. It’s a national scheme, so only the government ought to be handling that,” he said.
“To give it to Grace who is not a member of the government and on a platform of patronage it reflects two things; number one – it reflects the lack of sincerity of Zimbabwe around debt contraction which has a bearing over its so-called debt relief effort as we saw in Lima, Peru.
“Secondly, it’s a reflection of the fact that these guys are just concerned with power and looting; there are no principles, there are no values, there are no standards.”
The former treasury chief said Grace should not be distributing State resources because she was not an elected representative or a cabinet minister.
“She (Grace) is not a member of the government; she is not an employee of the State so she has no right at all to be doing whatever she is doing,” said Biti.
“She is a Zanu PF functionary; she is not a minister, she is not a parliamentarian. So, why is she using State resources moving around with two helicopters, bringing half the cabinet at her mad meetings? It’s just insane?
The opposition parties are considering a joint court application to stop Grace from “abusing” the loan deal.
“We are considering a court application because those are State resources; it’s a debt to the state; to the consolidated revenue fund.
“All monies allocated to the fund can’t be channelled to dubious, private channels for redistribution,” said Biti.
“We are mooting something about it; but we want to act as a collective, members of the opposition acting as a collective,” Mzonzora added.
Wake-up call for donors
“We want to make sure that this is not repeated because is a throwback to 2008 when Gideon Gono took government money and sponsored the violence only for the people of Zimbabwe to be asked to pay; it is purely criminal.”
Mzonzora said abuse of the loan deal was a warning for donors.
“This is a wake-up call to all the donors who are seeking to engage Zimbabwe,” he said.
“Donations, instead of benefiting the majority of Zimbabweans are being politicised specifically by the first lady. It is vote buying in advance.”
“The donor community, on its part, must place the necessary conditions on the donations. Also those who provide loan facilities must make sure that these loans benefit Zimbabweans.”