Zimbabwean First Lady Grace Mugabe has reportedly drawn criticism from health and political activists after she allegedly donated used underwear to Zanu-PF party supporters in the eastern border city of Mutare.
According to NewsDay, the donation was handed over to the ruling party supporters by prominent businessman and Chikanga -Dangamvura legislator Esau Mupfumi, who claimed to have been sent by the controversial First Lady.
Mupfumi reportedly told the activists that the underwear was sourced from Grace.
"Recently I visited the State House and I met the First Lady Grace Mugabe and I was given these clothes so that I can give you. I have briefs for you and I am told that most of your briefs are not in good shape, please come and collect your allocations today. We have nightdresses, sandals and clothes, come and take, this is from your First Lady Grace Mugabe," the newspaper quoted Mupfumi as saying
The report also quoted an unnamed beneficiary of the mini-briefs criticising Grace for taking them as a charity case instead of creating jobs to end unemployment in the southern African country.
"There are issues which need to be addressed rather than giving us briefs. We do not have jobs and why is she doing this?" said the Zanu-PF activist.
Zimbabwe has an unemployment rate of more than 85%, according to the country's umbrella labour body, the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions, although the government-run Zimbabwe Statistics Agency puts the figure at 11%.
Ahead of the 2013 elections, President Robert Mugabe promised to create more than 2.2 million jobs for the country's unemployed youths but he has failed to deliver on his promise.
Mutare-based political activist Lynette Mudehwe said Grace's donation was an admission that most Zimbabweans were suffering at the hands of her husband's administration.
"This is a clear indication that the First Lady has begun to accept that most Zimbabweans are suffering; most people can't afford to buy themselves underwear because the economy is bad. It is either you buy the underwear from bales of second-hand clothes or you walk without wearing some underwear," said Mudehwe.
Meanwhile, a public health fellow at Emory University in Atlanta, United States, Doctor Fortune Nyamande, told News24 that wearing used underwear had its health repercussions.
"Used underwear have known health risks particularly sexually transmitted infections such as vaginal candidiasis, gonorrhea, hepatitis and syphilis amongst others. The use of such clothes can never be encouraged and has negative public health consequences," said Dr Nyamande who is also the former president of the Zimbabwe Hospital Doctors Association.