Wednesday, July 05, 2017

Zimbabwe President Mugabe's U.S.$1 Million Donation to AU Foundation Inspires African Leaders
By Nduduzo Tshuma
Zimbabwe Herald

President Mugabe's $1 million donation to the African Union Foundation has inspired his African colleagues, who have pledged to emulate his gesture, Foreign Affairs Minister Simbarashe Mumbengegwi said yesterday. On Monday, President Mugabe presented a $1 million cheque in proceeds from the 2015 cattle donation he pledged towards capacitation of the African Union Foundation, as he pressed the call for the AU to be self-financing.

The pledge of 300 cattle by President Mugabe was expanded when he got overwhelming support from local farmers, who contributed more cattle that were then auctioned to fetch the $1 million.

President Mugabe made the donation during the official opening of the 29th Ordinary Session of the African Union Heads of State and Government Summit which ended yesterday.

Addressing journalists soon after President Mugabe's arrival at the Harare International Airport from the summit, Minister Mumbengegwi said President Mugabe was walking the talk on his calls for the self financing of the AU.

"The President has for many years been pushing this idea that let us finance our own programmes and own projects, until now it is policy of the AU, which was adopted when he was chair of the Union in 2015 that within five years we must be able to finance hundred percent of our operations, 75 percent of our programmes and at least 25 percent of our peacekeeping budget," he said.

Minister Mumbengegwi dismissed criticism that the donation to the AU Foundation pointed to misplaced priorities, saying such statements were coming from people who did not understand the background to the gesture.

"It started when he was the chairperson of the African Union when the AU Foundation held a fund raising gala where His Excellency the President was guest of honour," he said. "Now, during the pledging period for the foundation, His Excellency the President pledged 300 head of cattle, his own personal cattle.

"But when he came back home and the beneficiaries of the land reform programme heard that he had pledged 300 head of cattle of his own, they said 'ah Cde President, we have benefited from the land reform programme, we also have cattle and we also want to be part of this programme.'

"So all the provinces undertook a programme of donations of cattle from our own members, who have benefited from the land reform programme, who have become cattle owners and these cattle were put together and auctioned publicly throughout the country."

Minister Mumbengegwi said after the overwhelming support to President Mugabe's pledge, the AU Foundation requested that the cattle be auctioned, with its chief executive Mr Dumisani Mngadi coming to witness some of the sales.

"Therefore, one cannot argue that these are misplaced priorities because these are donations from people who felt that having benefited from the land reform programme, they must also give back by donating," he said.

"This is a project where the funds were raised specifically for this purpose from our own people, so I really do not understand why anyone would be upset that His Excellency the President, those of us who have benefited from the land reform programme, have made statements to support what his Excellency the President has always said, that we ourselves must finance our own institutions. We cannot depend on donors from outside because that is not sustainable.

"This was decided under his chairmanship and this is what the AU is doing and His Excellency the President has illustrated and led by example and has inspired many of his colleagues.

"The donation was very well received and many of my colleagues were indicating that they too are going to look at similar programmes because it was sustainable."

Minister Mumbengegwi dismissed as ridiculous claims by MDC-T spokesperson Mr Obert Gutu that President Mugabe, through his donation, wanted the AU to adopt a soft stance on Zimbabwe when the ruling Zanu-PF "rigs" elections next year.

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