By Mugove Tafirenyika
On three occasions, President Emmerson Mnangagwa, pictured, has been forced to cut short his foreign trips to attend to pressing matters back home — raising questions about the quality of advice he is getting from those around him.
In January, Mnangagwa abandoned his annual holiday after his deputy Constantino Chiwenga failed to contain a strike by junior doctors which had paralysed the health sector.
The job action had started a month earlier, well before Mnangagwa’s foreign travel.
In the same month, he was again forced to cut short another foreign tour to attend to a national crisis after the army was deployed to crush protesters, resulting in the death of 16 unarmed civilians around the country.
Mnangagwa, who was seeking much-needed foreign investment on his tour, had to pass plans to attend the Davos summit of world leaders, after visiting Russia, Belarus, Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan.
Only last week, with the country reeling from the devastation wreaked by Cyclone Idai, Mnangagwa was again forced to cut short his trip to the United Arab Emirates.
Opinion has been split with regards the justification for the trips, with government critics saying taxpayer’s money was being expended on useless junkets.
Mnangagwa’s backers insist the trips have resulted in fresh investments for the country, while also aiding Zimbabwe in its re-engagement efforts.
But analysts opined this week that Mnangagwa’s team of advisors could be misleading him into embarking on foreign travels at a time of turmoil back home.
They argue that Mnangagwa should leave globe-trotting to foreign Affairs minister Sibusiso Moyo and other diplomats so that he concentrates on domestic issues.
Political analyst Maxwell Saungweme said the fact that most of the disasters would have been foreseen on the heels of his trips would seem to suggest that the president’s advisors are clueless.
“It’s a tragedy that a leader leaves the country in the wake of the cyclone disaster or the wake of ravaging street protests. After all there is no evidence that those trips are bringing anything home,” he said.
Ricky Mukonza, a South Africa-based political commentator, said the pattern emerging was that each time the president travels, disaster strikes.
Mukonza said the “ruthless” manner in which government reacted to the protests for example was a public relations disaster for Mnangagwa which could be “difficult to turn around in the coming elections”.
“In most of these cases, the president has taken wrong decisions, that is, he has continued with the trips instead of prioritising solving the domestic mishaps,” Mukonza said, suggesting further that “this has worsened perceptions on his image as a leader”.
“It has perpetuated the view that he is an uncaring leader who is in the position for his own personal enjoyment and interests and not to serve the people. Whilst questions may be asked about the quality of advice the president is receiving, it also talks to his judgment as a leader.
“In Shona there is a saying ‘Zano pangwa uine rako’ (it’s always good to get advice when you have your own views), all what has happened in a big way reflects how the president thinks and where his priorities are”.
Piers Pigou of the International Crisis Group advised that Mnangagwa “should stay home in most instances and deploy ministers in the current situation” DailyNews