AS if to make mockery of fierce criticism that has followed his often expensive foreign jaunts, president Robert Mugabe, who flew out Friday to Swaziland, is now in Mauritius, according to the ZBC.
This becomes the fourth foreign trip in 19 days after the 93-year-old has visited Singapore, Ghana and Swaziland.
“President Robert Mugabe has arrived in Port Louis, Mauritius to join other heads of state and government, captains of industry and intellectuals for the inaugural African Economic Platform (AEP),” said the ZBC in its website Sunday.
“President Mugabe was warmly welcomed at Ramgulan International Airport by the Prime Minister of Mauritius, Mr Provin Jugnauth, several ministers from the government of Mauritius, and representatives from the African Union (AU),” the report said.
The development comes as Zimbabweans are angry over Mugabe’s unending trips.
Despite living with the reality of their President’s endless foreign trips, Zimbabweans are still at a loss on how an ailing 93 year-old leader would continue to endure hours of air travel every other week all in the name of duty when he had two deputies he could delegate.
Some have resigned themselves to the belief that the only leader the country has known since independence was captive to a gluttonous few who would stop at nothing to drag the politically fatigued leader on often insignificant but lucrative trips to line their pockets.
Mugabe chartered a $1 million plane for an earlier trip to Singapore earlier this month on ostensible health reasons.
He returned to spend less than 24 hours home before flying out again, this time to Ghana for the West African country’s 60th Independence Day celebrations.
During his month long annual leave in January this year, Mugabe could still afford to break his vacation to travel to China on an official visit.
His spokesperson George Charamba was quick to tell the media it was only logical for a State President who was enjoying his sojourn in the Far East to cross a few borders to the populous Asian country.
It never took Mugabe a week again to abandon his Asian base for a France-Africa summit in Mali while still on leave.
Mugabe has also been mocked before for travelling to summits where he found himself the only head of state and some in which the leaders of the host countries would not have attended.
Former finance minister Tendai Biti, who during his tenure was privy to Mugabe’s travelling bill, once said the President often carries with him, up to $6 million in cash whose remainder he was not obliged to return to Treasury.
Those who form Mugabe’s entourage often get amounts between $5,000 and $10,000 in allowances depending on the length of the trip.
On return, Mugabe’s entourage is never subjected to any customs frisking like the rest of the citizens, allowing them free passage with expensive imports.
“While Mugabe is known for his travelling hobby, I still think he is no longer the sole decision maker on where and when to go.
“The decisions are being made by persons surrounding him who are obviously enticed by the handsome payouts during each trip,” says one Anna Ndiweni, a Bulawayo resident and critic of Mugabe’s leadership style.
The First Lady Grace Mugabe has earned the derisive nickname “first shopper” because of her penchant for shopping each time she travelled with the aging leader, also named the “visiting President” because of his short stay in his own country.
Critics also see the flamboyant 51 year-old former Mugabe typist as a key instigator of her husband’s foreign travels.
Burning jet fuel and seeking virtual residence in the skies has not just been limited to hobbies and shopping, but has been linked to Mugabe’s alleged insensitivity to the plight of his suffering people.
“The state is failing to assist victims of floods who need basics like food stuffs, tents and medical supplies,” said the opposition People’s Democratic Party (PDP) in a statement.
“In the midst of this crisis the person who is supposed to be the President finds it prudent to be flying to many destinations of his desire and then visit the country just briefly.”
Former state security minister and one time Mugabe confidante Didymus Mutasa said he had no idea why his former boss has never been too keen on delegating some of his foreign assignments to his two deputies.
“He has not been delegating before and he still is not delegating now. I have never understood why,” was all Mutasa could say in an interview with NewZimbabwe.com.
Political analyst and publisher Ibbo Mandaza said Mugabe found foreign trips an opportunity to drain the fiscus adding that the President found his deputies too inadequate to attend summits on his behalf.
“He said it in his birthday interview that none of his deputies is good enough to succeed him. So why would he even parade them in front of an international audience,” Mandaza said.
However, Charamba has defended Mugabe’s travels saying “diplomacy does not come cheap”.
“…What they should know is that diplomacy costs,” Charamba was quoted in the state media recently while referring to those who have condemned Mugabe for foreign travels.
“It is legitimate spending that makes nations states. Diplomacy does not come cheap, especially when it comes from a country of such significance as Ghana.”