Mugabe flies in, jets out
PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe yesterday made a stop-over in Harare from Singapore where he had gone for medical attention, but immediately left for Ghana early this morning.
BY PAIDAMOYO MUZULU/RICHARD CHIDZA
Mugabe, the only leader Zimbabwe has known since majority rule from Britain 37 years ago, will be attending the West African country’s 60th independence anniversary.
The Zanu PF leader will leave the country burning, with civil servants having announced they would embark on a demonstration that has since been reduced to a sit-in to allow for negotiations with government.
“The President will leave the country for Ghana at 1am tomorrow (today),” a top government official told NewsDay.
Presidential spokesperson, George Charamba confirmed the 93-year-old leader would leave for Ghana just hours after jetting into the country. This has become a routine exercise earning Mugabe the moniker “visiting President”.
“The President is back in the country. He had gone for a check-up. It’s true he will be leaving for Ghana, following an invitation by the new President (Nana Akufo-Addo) to the country’s 60th independence anniversary.
President Mugabe used to work in Ghana and will also take advantage to meet the country’s new President after missing his inauguration. Remember his in-laws are in that country, so there are historical ties,” he said.
Mugabe quietly flew in, unlike his usual homecomings characterised by parades and even rallies, where party apparatchiks and activists gather to pay homage to the ailing Zanu PF leader.
In a microblogging Twitter post early yesterday, State controlled media announced: “Latest: President Mugabe is back in the country from Singapore.”
Opposition parties and political analysts yesterday cried foul, accusing those close to Mugabe of using the veteran ruler and bleeding the country through steep allowances on foreign trips.
Academic and political analyst, Ibbo Mandaza said Mugabe’s behaviour was shocking, but blamed the Zanu PF leader’s lieutenants.
“The story is no longer about Mugabe’s coming and going, but those around him and who manage his itinerary. There is obviously a financial purpose for all this. There are people making money out of having the old man in the air all the time. They are making a killing out of travel allowances and the public deserves to know how much people in Mugabe’s entourage get every-time he flies out,” Mandaza said.
Former Finance minister, Tendai Biti said he was disappointed Mugabe had virtually become a visitor to Zimbabwe, but also blamed the Zanu PF ruler’s coterie of hangers-on for abusing the veteran ruler.
“He has become just a visitor, passing through the country now and then. People like (Simbarashe) Mumbengegwi (Foreign Affairs minister) and Mugabe’s chief of protocol Munyaradzi Kajese are making millions out of the President’s travels. Mugabe is senile and cannot say no, my sources in government tell me these people are looting and take with them in excess of $3 million for trips to countries in Africa like Ghana,” Biti said.
MDC-T spokesperson, Obert Gutu said he was not surprised either.
“Mugabe is a visiting President in Zimbabwe. Occasionally, he visits Zimbabwe to drop off his shopping as well as to collect his fat per-diem from the near-bankrupt Treasury. It would be more cost effective if Mugabe permanently sets his base outside Zimbabwe. This will bring a huge saving to the national Treasury and I can assure you, very few people will genuinely miss him.
“Mugabe is now like an albatross around the necks of suffering and poverty-stricken Zimbabweans. He is a notorious and selfish globe-trotter, who has clocked more flying hours than the average commercial pilot,” Gutu said.
Mugabe left the country using a chartered plane in the wee hours of last Wednesday after his health reportedly deteriorated. In power since majority rule from Britain 37 years ago, Mugabe’s health remains a closely guarded secret and reporting on the issue has already seen hordes of journalists arrested.
Only last week, NewsDay Editor Wisdom Mdzungairi and Senior Reporter Richard Chidza were charged with “undermining or insulting the President”.
The Apex Council, a combined civil service representative unions, last week threatened to cripple Mugabe’s administration beginning today.
Progressive Teachers’ Union of Zimbabwe leader, Raymond Majongwe confirmed his members would conduct a sit-in today.
“We will sit in on Monday (today) and then decide the next course of action after the Monday meeting with government,” Majongwe said.
Mugabe flew out of the country as medical personnel across the country stayed at home, with officials admitting the industrial had action caused the “unnecessary deaths of many people”.
Medical practitioners returned to their workstations after the government announced it had reviewed their on-call allowances upwards to $360 a month from $288, while nurses had their allowances increased on a sliding scale from $65 to $91. Nurses used to get $50 a month.
Public Service minister Priscah Mupfumira has over the last three months been trying to sell the idea of dolling out residential stands to civil servants, as bonuses in lieu of cash but the idea has been rejected. She has, however, come under-fire for using strong-arm tactics to force workers to abandon the strike.
Government by end of 2016 was spending $0,92 cents of every dollar raised in revenue to wages and salaries.
Mugabe, overly sensitive to his political survival, has also delayed a proposed civil service rationalisation programme that would have seen the workforce reduced drastically from the current 500 000.