HARARE - There was much disappointment among many Zimbabweans when it emerged at the weekend that President Robert Mugabe had donated — of all things — biscuits and non-essential snacks to Cyclone Dineo victims in Tsholotsho who recently lost everything they had to floods.
Mugabe’s eye-brow raising gifts came into the public domain after Higher Education minister and Tsholotsho North legislator, Jonathan Moyo, published on social media the list of people and organisations who have assisted the impoverished flood victims.
The full list of goods which the president donated encompassed 1 000 packs of Zapnax, 1 000 units of bottled mineral water and 1 000 packs of 2kg biscuits to the more than 900 flood victims who are temporarily housed in overcrowded tents at Sipepa, in Tsholotsho.
The donation came as the displaced villagers have appealed for more aid in the form of substantial food, tents, blankets and sanitary wear among other urgent requirements.
The light Zapnax snacks, which are mainly consumed by children, retail at 10 cents a packet.
Tsholotsho is among the areas that were hardest hit by devastating floods which left a trail of destruction around the country, sweeping away bridges and destroying homesteads, livestock and other belongings.
Analysts and opposition figures roundly criticised Mugabe's donations yesterday, saying whoever had organised the gifts had exposed the president as "insensitive" to the suffering of Zimbabweans.
Opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai's MDC said the donation was "an insult" to the displaced families, who are expecting "real help" from the government.
“It's a mockery and an insult to the people of Tsholotsho. Mugabe spent $2,5 million on his birthday bash in Matobo a few weeks ago but doesn't have the common decency and morality of, at the very least, spending a similar amount of money on flood victims.
“This is a very big joke which is in extreme bad taste! President ... Mugabe should also have personally visited the flood victims in Tsholotsho to see for himself the extent of human suffering and misery that these villagers are going through,” MDC spokesperson, Obert Gutu, said.
“It's arrogance of the highest order for him to send the victims donated biscuits, Zapnaxs and bottled mineral water. This shows Mugabe's utter contempt for the toiling masses of Zimbabwe.
“But when he is sick, he dashes off to Singapore for treatment using millions of State funds, but doesn't even have the empathy and love to commiserate with the displaced villagers of Tsholotsho," Gutu added.
Civic leader Maureen Kademaunga said it was "embarrassing" for Mugabe to have made the donations which characterised him as being "out of sync" with the problems of the displaced people of Tsholotsho.
"It was vulgar to donate Zapnax and bottled water to distressed people whose homes were destroyed and don't have food and clothes,” Kademaunga told the Daily News.
“If you are to make comparisons between the extravagant celebrations of his birthday and the donations he has made, it's quite clear that he is failing to attach meaning to tragedy and he has absolutely no regard for ordinary people's lives and that's quite regrettable.
“Under a functional political system, our people would not be subjected to this mockery by a self-centred leader whose sense of service is simply non-existent.
"The crisis in this country is real. It is not a manufactured crisis but a real leadership crisis which we must correct like yesterday,” she added.
Political analyst Dewa Mavinga also tore into Mugabe for his donations.
“Surely, for flood victims Zapnax and biscuits are not the most important things they need. The president should have visited the flood victims to consult them about their most urgent needs.
"This is symbolic of what is wrong with Zimbabwe and the government. He is totally out of touch with reality and the needs of the people,” Mavhinga said.
“It is shocking that the head of State can donate such worthless things. To begin with these items are not even necessities or essentials.
“Just a few weeks back, we saw how the ruling party converged to celebrate the birthday of the president ... imagine if all the money that was wasted on that birthday had been directed to these flood victims.
“The donated items reveal the extent to which our rulers are divorced from the reality on the ground and the needs of the people,” another political analyst, Gladys Hlatywayo, weighed in.