Mugabe donates cattle cash to AU

Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe addresses the ZANU-PF party’s top decision making body, the Politburo, in the capital Harare, February 10, 2016. Mugabe, the only leader that Zimbabwe has ever known, turns 92 this month amid escalating tensions within his ruling ZANU-PF party over who will eventually succeed him. REUTERS/Philimon Bulawayo TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY – RTX26CYU

Zimbabwe has auctioned cattle worth $1m (£770,000) to raise money for the African Union (AU) Foundation to help end the “donor dependency syndrome”, President Robert Mugabe has said.

He added that he had donated 300 cattle from his herd, and other Zimbabweans doubled the number as they wanted to contribute towards a “noble cause”.

Mr Mugabe handed the $1m cheque to the AU at its leaders’ summit in Ethiopia.

The donation comes amid a severe cash and food crisis in Zimbabwe.

Last year, more than four million people were in need of food aid in the southern African state after rains failed.

However, there has been a bumper harvest this year, with the country expected to be self-sufficient for the first time in years.

The opposition blames the government for food shortages, saying its controversial land reform programme has ruined the farming sector.

Zimbabwe has also been forced to introduce so-called bond notes after running out of the US dollar, the main currency people use.

Hyperinflation forced the government to abandon the Zimbabwe dollar in 2009.

Foreign Minister Simbarashe Mumbengegwi said the cattle had been donated mostly by farmers who had benefited from the land reform programme, the state-run Herald newspaper reported.

Their donation was an “expansion” of a 2015 pledge by Mr Mugabe to donate 300 cattle, he added.

Speaking at the summit, Mr Mugabe said it was a “modest contribution” and a “symbolic step” towards helping to end the “donor dependency syndrome” in Africa.

Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe speaks during the burial of Brigadier General James Murozvi, who was granted national hero status by President Robert Mugabe, at the National Heroes Acre in Harare, on April 12, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / Jekesai NJIKIZANA (Photo credit should read JEKESAI NJIKIZANA/AFP/Getty Images)

“As an African and a farmer, the donation of cattle came naturally to me, given that our continent is rich in cattle and cattle are held as a store of wealth,” Mr Mugabe said.

On its website, the AU Foundation says it focuses on development programmes for youth and women, and promoting gender equality.

Mr Mumbengegwi said the donation was significant as it showed that the AU could find innovative ways to raise money for its projects.

Mr Mugabe, during his term as AU chairman in 2015 and 2016, campaigned for the AU to be self-financed as about 60% of its budget came from foreign donors, the Herald reported.

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