Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s opponents in the inclusive government have gone on overdrive, publicising his close security arrangements and exaggerated expenditure on foreign trips, officials said yesterday.
Observers said the unprecedented publication of the details of Tsvangirai’s delegation that leaves for China today could undermine the MDC-T leader’s security. The PM is visiting China at the invitation of the Chinese government and is expected to hold meetings with his counterpart in the Asian country, Wen Jilabao.
State media yesterday published a full list of Tsvangirai’s purported delegation, including the names of his security details, claiming the delegation was bloated.
President Robert Mugabe, who travelled to Singapore more than eight times last year with a delegation of over 50 people, reportedly spends more than $1 million per trip.
Members of his delegation are never publicised for security reasons, raising fears that some government officials with Zanu PF links have embarked on a smear campaign against Tsvangirai to silence critics of Mugube’s excessive foreign trips.
MDC-T spokesperson Douglas Mwonzora said publishing the names of Tsvangirai’s aides was an attempt to undermine the security and integrity of the PM’s Office.
“The publication (of details) of the Prime Minister’s trip to China is a clear manifestation of how the State media and State apparatus disregard the security of the PM and those around him,” he said.
“It is totally unacceptable that security details should be published in State newspapers, but as the MDC, we are now used to the State propaganda.”
The reports claimed Tsvangirai’s delegation would have 31 people, most of them directors in his office.
But the PM’s Office said only 11 people were travelling to China for the visit that ends next week.
“What makes it worse is that the details are deliberately inflated so as to equalise the extravagance of the well-known heavy spenders,” Mwonzora said.
He said Mugabe spent more on foreign trips compared to any official in the inclusive government. Mugabe, whose office was allocated $15 million last year by Treasury, had chewed $20 million in six months, overshooting his budget by 133% by mid last year according to available figures. Most of the money went to foreign travels.
Finance minister Tendai Biti has repeatedly appealed to government officials to reduce their trips abroad.
Last year, Mugabe allegedly took an entourage of 86 people to attend a youth conference in New York where he was the only Head of State at the forum that brought together youths from around the world to discuss their own issues.
Tsvangirai had used $3,7 million, almost three-quarters of the $5 million budget allocated to his office, with six months before year-end.
Luke Tamborinyoka, Tsvangirai’s spokesperson, yesterday said his boss would be leaving for China with 11 people from the ministries of Water Resources, State Enterprises, Finance and the Harare City Council.
He said Tsvangirai would be on government business to engage in high-level meetings to resuscitate several stalled projects in Zimbabwe.
These, Tamborinyoka said, included several projects funded through the China Exim Bank in the fields of energy and water, among others, which have stalled due to Zimbabwe’s failure to service loans. Tsvangirai will also attend the official opening of the China International Fair on Trade in Services and address a Zimbabwe promotion conference, among several other engagements.