By Tendai Kamhungira
Opposition People’s Democratic Party (PDP) president Tendai Biti has said government must enact a law that restricts President Robert Mugabe from excessive foreign travel.
Mugabe’s voyages to international conferences such as the ongoing UN ocean summit have courted the ire of critics in cash-strapped Zimbabwe.
Last year, Mugabe embarked on at least 20 trips abroad, blowing $36 million in the first 10 months, according to government figures.
Writing on micro-blogging site Twitter, Biti said the economy was tanking while a seemingly indifferent Mugabe nonchalantly spends his time abroad, with struggling Zimbabweans picking up the tab.
In 2017 alone, including his current trip to the US, Mugabe has already visited 10 countries.
Just two weeks ago, he attended a UN conference on disaster risk reduction in Mexico.
“Self-evident, that there must be a law restricting public executive travel. He (Mugabe) behaves like a five-year-old,” Biti wrote on his Twitter page.
Biti, who was the Finance minister during the stability-inducing inclusive government era from 2009 to 2013, has said Mugabe’s handlers used to demand $3 million from Treasury each time he leaves the country.
Biti also told VOA that part of the problem was the entourage around Mugabe which makes a killing when they travel with him because their per diems increase.
“So, they deliberately create these trips, they deliberately make him a permanent resident of the skies in order to loot Zimbabwe,” Biti said.
“So, it is the bureaucracy around him which is also culpable, but you know, in other countries, the issue of per diems that are given to a head of State, must be returned when he comes, but one of the criminal things in Zimbabwe is that he (Mugabe) takes $4 million — he doesn’t bring it,” he said, adding he used to slash the expenditure on foreign trips to around $1 million.
The trips come at a time government is struggling to pay civil servants their monthly salaries, including last year’s 13th cheque.
Analysts have criticised Mugabe for attending the ongoing UN Ocean Conference, which seeks to promote partnerships such as between governments and businesses to address issues such as marine pollution, ocean acidification, and marine research.
“Given the subject matter of this conference & we’re landlocked, it’s like the husband also going to a kitchen party,” political analyst Alex Magaisa wrote on his Twitter account.
Another analyst Maxwell Saungweme told the Daily News: “That trip is meaningless and nonsensical. It’s not a priority for our country.”
Analyst Shakespeare Hamauswa, however, said Mugabe could take advantage of the visit to meet other influential leaders in a way that could benefit the country. Daily News