By Bridget Mananavire
President Robert Mugabe yesterday left for Mauritius to attend the African Economic Platform (AEP) conference, hours after his arrival from Swaziland where he was taking part in the Sadc extraordinary summit.
The AEP was set to institutionalise a new annual platform for African leaders and create an avenue for dialogue among a range of sectors, including the continent’s political leadership.
This comes amid outrage over the president’s frequent flights while the country’s revenues are seriously strained.
A few weeks ago, the recently-turned-93 leader leased a luxury private jet from Bahrain, which he used for his Singapore trip for medical check-up as well as travelling to Ghana, where he attended the west African country’s 60th independence celebrations.
Early this year, while on his annual holiday, Mugabe travelled to China to hold bilateral talks with the country’s president Xi Jinping.
Later, he travelled on official business to Mali for a two-day France-Africa Summit.
As soon as he returned from his holiday, Mugabe flew to Ethiopia to attend the African Union summit.
Mugabe has been fiercely criticised of abusing taxpayers’ money by splurging on his foreign travels.
Opposition political parties have accused him of spending millions of dollars on travel allowances.
Last year, Mugabe’s stone-broke administration exceeded its budget by a jaw-dropping $1, 2 billion, with foreign travels gobbling about $45 million.
Figures from the consolidated revenue fund released recently indicated in the eleven months to November 30, 2016, government had planned to use $20, 7 million but ended up spending $44, 9 million.
Furious opposition parties that spoke to the Daily News recently said there was “absolutely no justification” for the increasingly frail nonagenarian to continue “blowing” millions of hard-to-come-by US dollars on his myriad travels at a time the country was facing severe economic turbulence, including crippling cash shortages.
“Mugabe is the non-resident president of Zimbabwe. Put differently, he ordinarily resides outside Zimbabwe and now and again visits the country.
“Surely, the country is better off without him. How can he come to collect his per diem of $4 million in cash from the bankrupt national treasury before he dashed off to yet another foreign jamboree in Ethiopia? This is a total shame,” MDC spokesperson Obert Gutu said then.
The Joice Mujuru-led National People’s Party (NPP) said Mugabe’s endless trips were depriving the country of much-needed foreign currency.
“Mugabe and his Zanu PF acolytes have found these trips as a ‘legitimate’ avenue through which they milk State funds.
“We are also aware that a lot of money is being drawn from the Treasury as contingency funds and these funds are never returned…even when there was no emergency on the trip,” NPP spokesperson Jealousy Mawarire told the Daily News recently. Daily News