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Mugabe’s foreign trips wasteful

PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe, who is currently in New York for the 71st United Nations General Assembly, is wasting time and resources globe-trotting on private business and attending useless summits at a time the government is virtually bankrupt.

Editor’s Memo,Faith Zaba

At this rate, Mugabe is easily the most travelled head of state in the world. One of these days, his name will be immortalised in the Guinness Book of World Records for being by far the most prolific clocker of air miles in a year.

The 92-year-old has since earned the moniker “Visiting Leader” from his critics. Thirty-six years after coming to power, he continues setting new travel records.

Mugabe is vying for the mantle of the most ridiculous traveller with Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari who visited 22 countries in one year from the time he assumed office in May last year.

Mugabe’s absentee leadership paralyses government business. And owing to his autocratic leadership style, everything literally comes to a standstill when he is away.

The president has been in the country for just 10 days since his visit to Swaziland at the end of August for the Sadc heads of state and government summit. In some instances, he has jetted into the country, only for him to fly out hours later. This is utterly irresponsible.

In the first six months, he clocked 200 000 kilometres in the air and used over US$80 million in flight travel. He has been to Singapore more than 10 times this year alone.

While his police force was locked in running battles with Zimbabweans protesting his failed policies that have plunged the nation into economic ruin, Mugabe left for Kenya on August 26 to attend the Tokyo International Conference on African Development.

Instead of addressing the nation on the urgent issues being raised, he flies out, showing how uncaring and insensitive he is.

Upon his return, he spent just a night before flying out to Swaziland on August 29. He returned at 7:44pm the following day and was in the country for a record five hours before flying out to Dubai on private business. He returned on September 3 and was in the country for nine days before jetting out again on September 12 to Zambia for President Edgar Lungu’s inauguration and returned the following day.

Incredibly, Mugabe spent a night in Harare before leaving around midnight on September 15 for the moribund Non-Aligned Movement talk-shop in Venezuela. There is something depressingly hypocritical about a leader who ritually attends meetings of a fossilised movement formed in 1961 during the bleak days of the Cold War, yet he is unable or unwilling to deal with urgent economic and social service delivery issues at home.

Just this week, Zimbabweans woke up to gut-wrenching images on the front page of our sister paper, NewsDay, of tortured female protesters, who were allegedly whipped with rubber truncheons in police custody following their arrest in Glen View last Saturday.

The gruesome pictures taken at the Mbare Magistrates’ Court on Monday showed women with badly lacerated backsides.

Mugabe, on that same day, had arrived in the United States from Venezuela for the United Nations General Assembly where, in a recycled speech peppered with hackneyed rhetoric, he pleaded for the relaxation of sanctions imposed by the West for human rights abuses.

The money spent on his foreign trips is far more than what each of the economic ministries are allocated per year. According to 2015 figures, the amounts allocated to economic ministries such as Industry and Commerce and Tourism pale in comparison to what Mugabe spends on foreign travel and allowances.

Mugabe’s misplaced priorities perfectly capture his attitude towards the economic crisis — characterised by a debilitating liquidity crunch, capacity utilisation of less than 35%, company closures and massive job losses — he has caused.

Zimbabwe deserves a president who provides visionary leadership, not one obsessed with gallivanting while ordinary Zimbabweans suffer from his misrule.

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