Phelekezela Mphoko
Zimbabwean Vice President Phelekezela Mphoko meets Russian president Vladimir Putin in 2006Kremlin.ru

One of President Mugabe's deputies has caused outrage among aid campaigners after reportedly spending $250,000 (£165,000) on a stay in a five-star hotel, as more than two-thirds of his country's population continue to live below the poverty line.

This week marks a year since Phelekezela Mphoko began staying in an exclusive hotel in Harare after being appointed as Zimbabwe's Vice President.

The former military commander reportedly refused to live in his predecessor's state-owned home, as is customary, because he said it was not in keeping with his stature. He has instead been staying with his wife in the presidential suite at the Rainbow Towers Hotel, enjoying access to 24-hour room service, a gym, heated swimming pool and casino.

His lengthy stay, to the high financial cost of Zimbabweans, has been described by campaigners as "shameful" and comes as Mugabe's government continues to ask the international community for food aid after this year suffering severe drought. According to the UN, 72% of Zimbabweans live below the national poverty line and almost 90% of the country's babies don't receive a proper diet. Civil servants and university lecturers fortunate enough to have jobs have not been paid their salaries for months as government finances suffer.

Mugabe Zimbabwe Africa Despot Tyrant Corrupt South Daughter Birthday Tax
Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe appointed Mphoko Vice President in December 2014Reuters

It has prompted angry Zimbabweans to picket outside Mphoko's hotel and threaten not to leave until he and his family move into state-owned accommodation, according to Newsday. The same publication also reported that Mphoko's wife, Laurinda, had rejected three houses offered to the family, among them a $3m (£1.98m) mansion, after she claimed they were "too small" for a person of her husband's stature.

The group protesting outside the hotel said in a statement: "It's a first in Zimbabwe that a vice-president takes residence in a luxurious hotel. The recent National Budget reflects a broke government that cannot provide for basic needs of the citizens.

"The money spent on the VP's hotel bill could be channelled towards health, education, food security, support of orphaned, vulnerable children and make a significant contribution to improve service delivery. Hundreds of starving Zimbabweans could be fed."

At one point, Mphoko did downgrade from the presidential suite to the diplomatic suite during the recent visit by Chinese premier Xi Jinping to Zimbabwe, but the hotel bill is still estimated by opposition politicians to be around the $250,000 mark (£165,000).

In an apparent bid to quell unrest, the Zimbabwean government spent $4m (£2.6m) on a house in a leafy suburb of Harare for Mphoko in December. But a spokesman for the MDC-T, the country's main opposition party, described the purchase as "an insult to the suffering Zimbabweans".

They told Newsday: "At a time when we are expecting tight cost-cutting measures to come from the cash-strapped government, we are greeted with news that one man is bound to live in a $4m house. Where on earth is that possible?

"In the first place, Mphoko should not have moved into a presidential suite at a five-star hotel when government has accommodation ready for occupation which was used by the late VP Joseph Msika. It is more worrying and embarrassing, in fact heartless, that the VP is now set to move into a $4m house. Who does he think he is?"