GLOBETROTTING President Robert Mugabe left on Tuesday for an eight-day visit to Japan and a two-day stop-over in Singapore with over 60 government officials.
Mugabe, who had only returned home from Ethiopia on Monday, took one of the biggest delegations this year to attend the 5th Tokyo International Conference on African Development (Ticad), co-hosted by the Japanese government, the African Union Commission, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the World Bank.
Sources said Mugabe took a high-powered delegation of cabinet ministers, directors of ministries, their political aides, personal assistants, national security personnel and specialists from government departments to the three-day conference that gives African countries an opportunity to interact with their Japanese hosts.
A top government source said Mugabe, who would join other African and Asian leaders and representatives of development partners, left on Tuesday night, four days before the start of the conference.
“The conference will commence on June 1, but the delegation left on Tuesday (May) 28, which means they will be away for a week in one of the most expensive cities in the world,” said the source.
The trip to Japan’s Yokohama city is wholly-funded by Treasury.
Besides spending a week in Japan, sources also say Mugabe will stop over in Singapore for two days, a move that led ministers from the MDC formations withdrawing from the trip.
“Some senior government officials withdrew from the trip because Mugabe is going to stop over for two days in Singapore while his huge entourage will be holed up in hotels since they are travelling on a chartered flight.”
His previous trips to Singapore over the years have sparked reports about the 89-year-old leader’s deteriorating health ahead of elections.
Mugabe’s office was allocated US$15 million last year by Treasury, but chewed up US$20 million in six months, overshooting the budget by 133% by mid-year, according to sources in the Finance ministry. Most of the money funded foreign travel.
In June last year, Mugabe came under fire after blowing more than US$7 million when he took an entourage of 92 to the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development in Brazil.
In his 2012 national budget proposals, Finance minister Tendai Biti warned against excessive foreign travel saying the executive had blown US$45,5 million on trips in the previous year.