By Mthulisi Mathuthu
The ministry of foreign affairs is considering a controversial proposal by a parliamentary committee to have its members included in all of President Robert Mugabe’s foreign trips.
A Daily News report Tuesday quoted Joey Bimha, a permanent secretary in the ministry of foreign affairs, saying his ministry was ‘ready to engage on that issue’ and would ‘forward the request’ to Mugabe’s office for consideration.
Bimha was responding to a proposal tabled Tuesday by ZANU PF MP for Makonde Kindness Paradza during a hearing by a parliamentary portfolio committee on foreign affairs.
Paradza, who is a member of the committee, argued that it was their ‘oversight role’ to join Mugabe in his foreign trips because they ‘over shadow the ministry of foreign affairs.’
The former journalist also added that the committee wanted to be ‘involved in the re-engagement with the foreign government’. According to the report the committee members also asked Bimha to help them acquire diplomatic passports ‘so that they can have easy travel on parliament business.’
Committee chairman and ZANU PF MP for Chipinge South, Enock Porosingazi said they were keen to learn about ‘diplomatic duties’ and called for workshops on international relations.
The potentially costly proposals come at a time when the country is seen in the jaws of a credit crunch. According to the report Bimha admitted that his ministry was ‘facing financial challenges.’
Former Finance minister Tendai Biti revealed in his July 2011 medium Term Budget that ‘excessive travel’ by government officials was one of the issues gobbling public funds.
At the time Mugabe’s trips were reported to have chewed $20 million which was way beyond the $15 million annual presidential travel budget.
Former St Mary’s MP Job Sikhala said Mugabe should trim his entourage to cater for the committee members so that they monitor his activities abroad.
Civil society organisations said the committee members had a duty to explain how their intended activities abroad would benefit the country. They urged the ministry of foreign affairs not to rush the issue through before consultations with the broader Zimbabwean community.
Bulawayo Agenda Executive Director Thabani Nyoni said the committee should ensure that their planned activities do not duplicate the Presidential entourage’s mission. SW Radio Africa