AT 90 President Robert Mugabe has lost none of his zest for foreign travel despite rumoured and confirmed health issues, with the latest outing being the two-day 50th anniversary Commemorative Summit of the G77+China held in Santa Cruz, Bolivia.
Editor’s Memo with Stewart Chabwinja
In just two months, Mugabe has been to Singapore, South Africa, Dubai and Bolivia, a potentially punishing schedule for one his age. He has, of course, defended the frequent, costly trips in the past, saying there was a risk Zimbabwe’s voice would be unheard and its interests compromised if he failed to attend.
The summit was another opportunity for Mugabe to strut the world stage which he was never going to pass up. Interestingly, the leaders or their representatives discussed issues such as unemployment, poverty, climate change and food security, under the summit’s theme “A New World Order for Living Well”.
Living well is certainly what most Zimbabweans are not doing, but have been dreaming of for well over a decade despite constant promises from their rulers that better days are on the horizon.
Current socio-economic indicators suggest Zimbabweans will live worse before they start “living well”. Viewed from that perspective, Mugabe’s pronouncements at the summit rang eerily hollow.
Poverty eradication should be central to national and international development policies, Mugabe was quoted as saying, and countries must strive to attain sustainable production and consumption patterns for the good of all humanity.
Back home, Mugabe’s commitment to the well-being of his people was being questioned, with our sister paper, the Standard, carrying a story titled Mugabe flies out as Zim melts. If only Mugabe could project the same oomph at home as he does on his foreign junkets, Zimbabweans would at least be re-assured all government hands are on deck tackling their concerns.
A case in point is when he provoked widespread disbelief after remarking on the poor state of the country’s roads, leaving many to wonder where he had just come from for the roads have been in such state for well over a decade. Mugabe, who revels in being a man of the people, should instead be resolute on corruption, water and electricity problems, illiquidity in the economy and company closures, among a host of debilitating economic challenges.
Reform remains Mugabe’s hobbyhorse, apparently as long as he does not have to institute it. He has robustly advocated UN reform, and called for the Group of 77+China to be at the forefront of creating a global order representing the interests and aspirations of downtrodden people and oppose Western domination.
The irony lost on him is that he has assiduously resisted reforms at home in the security sector, media and on the electoral front aimed at promoting freedoms and increasing the democratic space and ensuring a level electoral playing field.
Having left the country on autopilot last Thursday, after Zesa ominously warned of massive power cuts, Mugabe returned to news that 2 065 workers had lost jobs from January to date, with industry operating at around 30% of capacity.
Meanwhile, the country is busy organising the Sadc summit scheduled for August in the scenic resort of Victoria Falls. It will be another chance for Mugabe to grandstand and give the impression all is well despite a few niggling problems hardly unique to Zimbabwe.