PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe has been airborne for a staggering 140 000 kilometres, just five months into the year as the Zanu-PF leader’s foreign trips continue to bleed the economy.
Now derisively referred to as the “airborne” or “expatriate” president in some circles, 91-year-old Mugabe has since the tail-end of 2014 been to the Far East five times and visited five African capitals in what could be a world record travel for a serving head of state.
Mugabe has made over 10 trips since his return from annual leave on January 21. He spent his holiday in Singapore and Hong-Kong as usual. Barely three days after arrival from annual leave, Mugabe was in Zambia to witness the inauguration of President Edgar Lungu. Lusaka is 471 km from Harare by air, which translates to almost 1 000 km for a return trip.
Before the ink was dry on his Lusaka plane ticket, Mugabe was off again three days later, this time to Addis Ababa for the African Union (AU) summit where he became the continental body chairman, flying just over 9 000 km in the process. He returned on February 4 and was to leave to pick up his ailing wife First Lady Grace from Singapore, travelling 16 500km.
In between, the Zimbabwean leader had tripped and fallen at the Harare International Airport after reportedly sticking his foot into a misplaced carpet as he walked off the podium on his return from Ethiopia.
Two weeks later, Mugabe was in South Africa to attend the Sadc Troika on Lesotho before flying out to Tokyo, Japan on March 10 and returning on March 17, a distance of 25 600km on the return to Harare.
He has been to Zimbabwe’s southern neighbour twice since then, bringing the distance travelled to SA to 4 500km.
On March 29 and unfazed by growing criticism by Zimbabweans and opponents of his regime over his costly foreign travels, Mugabe left for Tanzania, some 2 421 km away. He had spent less than 48 hours in the country following his state visit to Algeria – almost 23 000km travelled in less than a week. From Tanzania he was to proceed to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, clocking 6 300 km on his return home after attending the 18th summit of the Community for Eastern and Southern Africa (Comesa).
Mugabe was invited to Tanzania to speak at a symposium in Arusha, organised by the youth league of that country’s ruling, Chama Cha Mapinduzi party.
Mugabe is expected to visit Mali soon for a peace signing ceremony between the Mali government and the Tuareg separatists rebels.