PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe has apparently established a fresh base in the Middle East from which he will continue to gallivant, bleeding an already desperately broke government currently struggling to pay workers on time.
BY RICHARD CHIDZA
Impeccable sources told NewsDay that Mugabe, currently on his traditional annual vacation in the Far East, will travel extensively in that region, and visit Africa for a number of meetings as well as China using Air Zimbabwe.
Mugabe is said to be in China amid reports Cabinet ministers are trooping to Dubai for briefings with him.
“Ministers are taking turns to travel to Dubai or wherever the President will be for briefings, as well as the usual party business. All this is on the taxpayer, but it is the President’s travel schedule which should raise alarm.
“From China, the President will return to Dubai and then travel to Singapore. An Air Zimbabwe plane will be travelling from Harare to pick him up and leave him at every destination, return to Harare and then go back to pick him up when his business is done,” a top government source said.
Mugabe, according to the sources, will on January 13 travel to Mali and then proceed to his favourite West African destination, Equatorial Guinea.
“The President will be taken back to Dubai after his Equatorial Guinea and Mali engagements after which he is likely to travel to Singapore again and China. Towards the end of the month, the President will return home before attending the African Union (AU) Extraordinary Summit in Ethiopia,” sources privy to the itinerary said.
While reports had said Mugabe is set to blow around $6 million, revelations are that the figure could double given the number of trips he is to make, accommodation and other ancillary expenses that include his normally large entourage.
Information minister Christopher Mushowe was not forthcoming when contacted for comment.
“I am currently on leave and would not be sure of his travel arrangements. Could you please get hold of (Presidential spokesperson) George Charamba,” he said.
Charamba yesterday declined to be drawn to comment on his principal’s engagements, saying: “As far as I am concerned, the President is on leave, I do not know the other engagements that you say he will be engaged in.”
Last month, Charamba confirmed Mugabe’s month-long leave would be interspersed with official engagements, including the AU summit.
Now derisively referred to as Zimbabwe’s visiting President, Mugabe hardly spends time in the country even when not on vacation and his latest bout of jaunts will cover in excess of 50 000km with AirZim travelling back into the country with no passengers.
MDC-T spokesperson, Obert Gutu described Mugabe’s abuse of the national carrier as “shameful”.
“It is shameful and like we have always said, the man has never cared for anyone except himself. Even if you check his record during the liberation struggle, Zimbabweans were dying while he lived the good life at a seaside hotel in Maputo,” he claimed.
Zimbabwe People First spokesperson, Jealousy Mawarire said Mugabe’s abuse of State enterprises had bled most of them dry.
“This is how most of the parastatals have been bled to death. You have a President, who is using the national airline as his taxi. These are the kinds of things, as a government-in-waiting, we would want to put a stop to. We have a policy to make sure all these parastatals operate as profitable businesses,” he said.