Mashudu Netsianda, Senior Reporter
ZIMBABWEANS from all walks of life have roundly condemned former President Robert Mugabe following startling revelations that he is demanding his pension lump sum in cash after years of getting his salary using the same arrangement.
According to documents in possession of our sister paper, The Sunday Mail, the former President is demanding his pension lump sum of nearly half-a-million dollars and monthly pension pay out of over $13 000 in cash.
The documents also reveal that Mr Mugabe had been getting monthly cash payments of $20 000 while still Head of State and Government, even as ordinary Zimbabweans queued for days on end to access amounts as low as $20 from banks.
It has also been established that former First Lady Mrs Grace Mugabe is also getting a monthly payment of $2 170 from the State.
Police were unleashed on those who spoke out at bank queues as Mr Mugabe and his wife sat pretty, getting cash.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa, who took over from Mr Mugabe, was left bemused by the arrangement, saying it was highly irregular and irresponsible and opted to have his salary paid through a bank transfer.
The Chronicle yesterday took to the streets and spoke to ordinary residents, politicians and lawyers in Bulawayo over the issue.
A Bulawayo constitutional lawyer, Mr Dumisani Dube, said Mr Mugabe’s demands were a violation of anti-money laundering laws.
“Mr Mugabe’s demands are against anti-money laundering laws which were put in place to curb terrorism among other criminal activities. Anti-money laundering specifically refers to all policies and pieces of legislation that force financial institutions to proactively monitor their clients in order to prevent money laundering and corruption. So why does Mr Mugabe, a private citizen, want such a huge amount in cash when the generality of people are struggling to access even $100 per week?” he queried.
“In South Africa you cannot even withdraw $100 000 without first complying with the South African Reserve Bank regulations on money laundering and terror. In light of that, we can only speculate that Mr Mugabe wants to use the money for illicit activities.”
Mr Dube urged Mr Mugabe to embrace plastic money.
“We are living in a cashless society and there is no justification why someone would want to carry such huge amounts in cash.
Another Bulawayo lawyer, Mr Abednico Ndebele, who is a retired magistrate, had no kind words for the former Head of State and Government.
“We know that Mr Mugabe is constitutionally entitled to his pension and other benefits, but for him to demand that money in cash is something that cannot be condoned considering the prevailing situation in Zimbabwe. He is being unreasonable and this is actually a contradiction of what he used to preach when he was still the President that we should embrace plastic money,” he said.
“Pensioners spend several hours if not days trying to withdraw their money, which is merely pittance, and we have National Railways of Zimbabwe (NRZ) employees who have gone for years without pay, but here is a man who is not even ashamed to demand a lump sum of almost half-a-million in cash.”
Mr Ndebele said Mr Mugabe is not different from other citizens, among them war veterans, who endure long queues to access their pensions.
“We have war veterans who literally sleep in queues to access between $20 and $50 per day. In fact, people queue for days and at times money runs out while they are still in the queue. It is outrageous and uncalled for to have such a small family that has put us in this quagmire, to demand this whole lot of money in cash yet the generality of people queue to get coins,” he said.
“So in essence, what Mr Mugabe is saying is that every dollar that CBZ Bank gets is supposed to be given to him. If Cde Emmerson Mnangagwa, who is a sitting President, is getting his salary through the normal banking system, what makes Mr Mugabe think he is special?”
Mr Kucaca Phulu, a prominent lawyer and vice president of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), scoffed at Mr Mugabe’s demands, saying the former President is his “own worst enemy” who steered the country towards a wrong economic direction.
“Mr Mugabe’s economic policies scared away potential investors resulting in this cash crisis that we are now reeling under. In fact, the Government of the day has an obligation to pay a former President his pension dues, but however, for Mr Mugabe to go to the extent of climbing up the mountain and start making noise, demanding cash is incongruous yet his fellow pensioners are struggling to get their little pay outs in the banking halls,” he said.
Mr Phulu said the former President should face reality and feel the pinch like every Zimbabwean. “If anything the Government should prioritise paying NRZ workers their outstanding salaries, social grants to the elderly, which are key issues that need to be addressed. I therefore urge Mr Mugabe, in his capacity as a senior opposition leader, to start making noise about these burning issues so that they are promptly addressed,” he said.
Mr Phulu said Mr Mugabe should be held accountable for engineering the collapse of the economy through his unfriendly economic policies. He said the money that Mrs Grace Mugabe is getting was also unjustifiable given that thousands of people are jobless and underpaid. Mr Winos Dube, the chairperson of the Bulawayo United Residents’ Association (BURA), described Mr Mugabe’s demands as “shocking and outrageous.”
“This is quite shocking and shameful for the former President to actually demand such a huge amount in cash when the country is facing a serious liquidity crunch. In fact, he should join the queues in the banking halls just like any other citizen,” he said.
Mr Dube said they have no problem with Mr Mugabe receiving his pension, which he is constitutionally entitled to.
He, however, said the former President should access his money through the formal banking system.
“We are really surprised to find a man of his (Mr Mugabe) status, a very seasoned elderly statesman who wants cash in a country that he knows very well that it is cash-strapped. He should know the situation better than anyone else considering that he has been at the helm of this country for the past 37 years,” he said.
Mr Dube said it was annoying for Mr Mugabe to demand such a huge amount in cash when ordinary citizens, among them the elderly and pensioners, spend sleepless nights queueing for money in the banks. “Where does he expect the money to come from? What has happened to a man who we used to respect, the founding father of this great nation? (Mr) Mugabe knows that everyone is struggling to access cash in the banks,” he said.
Another resident, Ms Concilia Ndiweni from New Lobengula weighed in: “Perhaps Mr Mugabe knows where the money is stashed. Honestly, it is shocking to have someone of his calibre making such unreasonable and unrealistic demands when everyone is struggling to get money from their banks let alone even 50 cents to board a kombi.”
A pensioner, Mr Kurirai Mushambi (70) from Gokwe said he came all the way from his rural home to collect a paltry $20 pension payout from NSSA. “It is sad that we come here and sleep outside the banking hall to collect $20.We read in newspapers that Mr Mugabe is demanding cash for his pension yet we are forced to come and sleep in the open queuing for our pension,” he said.
Another pensioner, Mr Daniel Mthanga (72) from Nkayi echoed Mr Mushambi’s sentiments.
“I retired from a security company in 2014. It is not fair for Mr Mugabe to demand such a huge amount in cash yet people like us have to sleep in the cold to collect small amounts. The same amount is eroded by transport costs and food. Mr Mugabe is being insincere and inconsiderate looking at the cash challenges that we are facing in the country,” he said.
On March 1, 2018, the Chair of the Public Service Commission Mr Mariyawanda Nzuwah wrote to Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) Governor Dr John Mangudya asking monetary authorities to avail the cash for Mr Mugabe.
“The former President opted to commute one-third of his pension and he is therefore entitled to monthly pension of $13 333 and lump sum pension amounting to $467 200. The former President was being paid his salary in cash and he has requested that the same arrangement be maintained. “We are kindly requesting you to avail cash amounting to $467 200 and monthly cash amounts of $13 333 for us to pay the former President of Zimbabwe his pension benefits,” wrote Mr Nzuwah.
Since he resigned in November 2017, Mr Mugabe has received $80 000 in pension, while Mrs Mugabe has received $8 680. The payments to Mr Mugabe were made on January 5, 2018 ($40 000), January 29, 2018 ($20 000), and February 28, 2018.
The two payments on January 5 were because Mr Mugabe had not received his pension for November and December 2017 due to administrative issues hence the double instalment to offset arrears.
He got a third instalment at the end of January as his pension for that month, with the fourth also coming as scheduled in February.
Mrs Mugabe received instalments of $2 170 in November and December 2017, and January and February 2018.
Contrary to uncertainty surrounding pay dates for civil servants during Mr Mugabe’s administration, the Mugabes’ pensions are reportedly coming on time and in cash. Under Mr Mugabe’s government, civil servants and pensioners were never sure of when they would be paid. — @mashnets