Addis Ababa – President Robert Mugabe on Monday handed over a cheque for $1 million to the African Union, after he and his supporters sold hundreds of cattle in support of the continental body.
At the opening ceremony of the AU’s heads of state and government meeting in Addis Ababa on Monday morning, Mugabe said his initial pledge of 300 cattle to the bloc two years ago had caught on among his party and people.
‘A very noble cause’
“When I returned to Zimbabwe and informed my party and people of this pledge, they said to me, ‘Ah… Comrade Mugabe, Comrade President, this is a very innovative idea for a very noble cause and we would like to be part of it’,” Mugabe said in comments carried by state ZBC radio.
“I was most gratified that this noble cause had resonated well with my party and people who made it possible for my initial pledge to be more than doubled,” he added.
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The radio said the president’s donation was the highlight of the opening ceremony because it showed “it is indeed possible for the continent to be self-reliant and not depend on foreign donors”.
No precise figure on the total number of cattle sold was given, although Zimbabwe’s foreign minister Simbarashe Mumbengegwi was quoted in Monday’s state-run Herald newspaper as saying it was “thousands”.
Mumbengegwi said beneficiaries of Zimbabwe’s land reform programme had donated the animals, which were then auctioned off across the country.
‘A store of wealth’
In his comments to the AU on Monday Mugabe said the idea of donating cattle had been a natural one for him.
“A donation of cattle came naturally to me given that our continent is rich in cattle and cattle are held as a store of wealth,” he said.
Mugabe, who was AU chairperson from 2015-2016, has often called for the body to be self-funded.
Roughly 60% of the bloc’s funding comes from donors, rather than member states, according to the Herald.