Harare – This is why he’s known as Zimbabwe’s ‘visiting president’: so far this year Robert Mugabe has spent more days outside the country he’s ruled for 37 years than he’s spent at home, it’s been reported.
Until May 27, when Mugabe got back from a week-long jaunt to Mexico, the president had spent 77 days outside the country, reports the Standard.
Only 69 days had been spent at home.
Mugabe, 93, recently had to charter a luxury Boeing as the Air Zimbabwe plane he usually uses is grounded for servicing.
The paper said Mugabe began his 2017 travels on January 17, while still on official leave in Dubai, with a trip to China.
9 countries, 3 continents
Since then, the paper estimates he’s covered 145 000km, and clocked a staggering 250 hours in the air.
Countries he has so far visited on three continents include China, Ethiopia, Ghana, Mali, Mauritius, Singapore (twice), South Africa, Swaziland and Mexico.
The Zimbabwe Independent, a respected business weekly, estimates that this month alone the president spent $3.5 million chartering a plane for trips to Singapore and Cancun in Mexico.
$1 million for 4 days
The paper identified the plane as a Comlux Aviation Boeing 767.
“It costs one million US dollars to hire the plane for four days so Mugabe paid that when he went to Singapore,” an unnamed aviation source told the paper.
“The plane also attracted close to half a million dollars in charges when it was parked for six days, from May 13 to May 18 while the cabin crew was at a local hotel. Mugabe paid close to 2 million US dollars for the nine days the plane took him to Mexico.”
But transport minister Joram Gumbo, while declining to disclose the amount spent on the Mexico trip, suggested that chartering a plane is no more expensive than flying Air Zimbabwe.
“Air Zimbabwe is used at cost and the rates are the same. Every last penny is paid for by the president’s office,” he told the paper.
Mugabe invariably travels with a large entourage, including state media journalists who get paid daily expenses in scarce foreign currency. Critics say the country gains nothing from these expensive trips.