Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe revealed his monthly salary to be $4,000, announced state media on Tuesday, citing a BBC interview aired this weekend. In the documentary “Robert Mugabe @ 90,” the leader claims he decreased his monthly wage to reflect “hard times” in Zimbabwe, and claims to be the lowest paid head of state in Africa.
The timing of the decrease – if true – is apt. Zimbabwe’s economic outlook is gloomier than ever, warns Blouin Beat business blogger Alex Erquicia, and the country appears close to economic collapse. This as huge income disparities are coming to light – notably between the average Zimbabwean worker, who earns less than $500 a month, and executives at state-backed firms making hundreds of thousands of dollars in an equivalent period. These revelations caused such a fuss that last month Zimbabwe’s parliament passed restrictions capping executive salaries in the public sector at $6,000 per month.
VISUAL CONTEXT: Zimbabwe’s faltering economy
An even greater discrepancy exists between Mugabe’s own admitted salary and his exorbitant spending habits, i.e., a private mansion worth over $10 million on the outskirts of Harare; a lavish 90th birthday party that reportedly cost $1 million; and a $100,000 gift to his daughter and son-in-law at their March wedding, which reportedly cost $5 million.
In light of such inconsistencies, Mugabe’s salary reveal looks to do little (if anything) to bolster his image, or that of the ruling Zanu PF party. Not when the economic ills the Zimbabwean leader is addressing, if only superficially, stem from three decades of poor economic governance under his watch. Case in point – Mugabe’s controversial re-election last year prompted a flurry of negative economic forecasts from experts wary in large part because of the president’s restrictive financial policies discouraging foreign investment. Despite the president’s promises to turn the economy around during the 2013 campaign period, notably by creating some two million jobs over the next four years, unemployment continues to hover around 80% and much of the country’s population lives below the poverty line.
Mugabe’s salary admission resonates more as an attempt to improve his reputation abroad than a sincere outreach to his domestic audience. Though, the president has been nothing if not hyper critical of the West, speaking out in a March speech to condemn Europeans leader reluctant to endorse him. Indeed, during the BBC documentary cited above, Mugabe claimed that Great Britain had lost its global standing, and was now led by people with “gay tendencies.” So, we wonder, if Mugabe is targeting neither Western viewers nor Zimbabweans with his latest claim, who exactly is the aged autocrat hoping to sway?