Former Presidential Affairs minister and ex CIOs boss Didymus Mutasa — who celebrated his 80th birthday quietly on Monday — says he is shocked by the insensitivity of Zanu PF's leaders, who threw an extravagant 50th birthday party for First Lady Grace Mugabe last weekend, at a time when most Zimbabweans are wallowing in abject poverty.

Speaking in an interview with a private daily yesterday, in the wake of President Robert Mugabe's controversial wife throwing two mega bashes to mark her half century milestone, Mutasa also doubted whether a significant portion of the money that was raised from the parties would be channelled to charities as claimed by organisers of the events.

Grace's lavish Saturday bash — which was held at the First Family's Borrowdale mansion, and which was broadcast live on ZBC and went into the wee hours of Sunday morning — was attended by the country's well-heeled from both politics and business, who paid through their necks to share a table with the increasingly powerful First Lady.

But organisers of the extravaganza defended the event, saying it was meant to fundraise for the Grace philanthropic work.

Insiders estimate that up to $5 million was raised from the glamorous gala — and on Wednesday the First Lady appeared to react to negative public sentiment by donating some of the proceeds to 50 charities, at an event at her Mazowe business hub that was attended by some government ministers.

However, Mutasa — a former close ally of Mugabe — said yesterday that there were no measures in place to ensure that money raised from such occasions was not abused and would find its way to the needy.

Talking about his own birthday, he said the occasion was a small family affair, with the day mostly "just like any other ordinary day, characterised by power cuts and water woes and dreams of a brighter day".

"There was nothing for me to celebrate when the people of Zimbabwe are suffering. I could not do that as it would be unfair and against what I stand for," he said.

"It is inconceivable that one can have a gala when people are suffering. If the funds raised during such occasions reach the people, then fair and fine, but what if it doesn't? It is doubtful that such funds reach the people. I am a member of the presidential fund that ensured that money donated to the president is distributed well. I don't know whether that is what is taking place everywhere," Mutasa added.

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