WHILE ordinary Zimbabweans and companies are reeling under a severe liquidity crunch, which has resulted in company closures and job losses, President Robert Mugabe and a bloated 60-member delegation were squandering scarce public funds at a fruitless summit in Papua New Guinea.
Mugabe left Zimbabwe on Saturday via Singapore to attend the 8th summit of African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) group of states in Papua New Guinea capital, Port Moresby.
He was accompanied by First Lady Grace Mugabe, Industry and Commerce minister Mike Bimha, Foreign Affairs minister Simbarashe Mumbengegwi, several government and security officials.
Mugabe and his delegation normally book into luxury hotels and are given daily stipends running into thousands of United States dollars each for a week-long trip.
In Port Moresby, Mugabe was the only Head of State attending the ACP two-day meeting, which ended on Wednesday.
The meeting was attended by four vice-presidents, 13 prime ministers, one deputy prime minister, a speaker of parliament, 14 ministers and 16 ambassadors from more than 50 registered ACP countries.
This is the second time in three months that the president has left the country with a huge entourage to attend a low-key meeting. In March, he had to abort a trip citing security concerns days after leaving the country via Singapore for some obscure cultural event in India which was snubbed by the host country’s leader, President Pranab Mukherjee. Instead of coming back to work, he got holed up in Singapore for a week getting medical treatment.
Attempts to trace where Mugabe was yesterday were difficult; media reports were saying he had left Papua New Guinea and was now in Singapore, where he normally receives medical treatment for prostate cancer and cataracts at the state-of-the-art Gleneagles Hospital.
His daughter Bona, who gave birth to Mugabe’s first grandchild in Singapore in April, is still in the Far East country.
Last year, Mugabe’s foreign trips gobbled more than US$33 million in the first nine months of the year, more than what was been spent in the same period by key ministries like Industry and Commerce.
Figures of expenditure up to September 2015 released by Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa revealed that Mugabe spent US$33 270 491 on foreign trips, overshooting the budgeted US$27 446 000.
The figure did not include subsequent trips to India, Turkey and France.
The sum also exceeded by three times the US$11 817 053 spent by the Ministry of Industry.