THE inclusion of President Robert Mugabe’s daughter, Bona Mugabe-Chikore, on her father’s government trip to Japan and the decision to allow her to sit by his side during an official meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Sunday has, all but confirmed that the First Family could not entirely depend on his security team, analysts and opposition politicians have said.

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They also said the move signified the fact that Mugabe’s family was also now more cautious about his ill-health, hence Bona’s inclusion to play the role of her mother, who remained behind, amid unconfirmed reports that First Lady Grace Mugabe (49) was not well.

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Bona (24) was roped in on Mugabe’s trip to Singapore for a medical check-up andlater to Japan for the United Nations 3rd World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction, after her mother Grace failed to make the trip as she is still recuperating from surgery.

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Mugabe, who turned 91 last month, is battling ill-health coupled with failing eyesight which has seen him making several medical trips to Southeast Asia.

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The Zanu PF leader last month tumbled at Harare International Airport as a result of possibly failing balance and deteriorating eyesight after he missed a step on a flight of stairs shortly after returning from an African Union summit in Ethiopia.

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While opposition parties have raised eyebrows on why Bona sat next to Mugabe in a diplomatic meeting, analysts interviewed by NewsDay yesterday said it was only proper for her to be by her father’s side given his frailty and the absence of her mother.

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Bona was on Sunday pictured walking side by side with Mugabe and sitting next to him during a meeting where Japan pledged $2, 5 million to Zimbabwe for disaster risk preparedness and management.

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Analyst Takura Zhangazha said Mugabe should explain why his daughter sat out at such a high-profile meeting.

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“The appearance of the President’s daughter at a meeting that her father was conducting with the Japanese PM understandably raises eyebrows, not least because the First Lady has taken on a political role, but also because issues of succession have been in vogue,” Zhangazha said.

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“Bona Mugabe, however, does not hold any political office in the country whether by appointment or election. It would be in the best public interest if the President explained why he took his daughter to an official meeting. Hopefully, he just needed her company and nothing more.”

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Academic Ibbo Mandaza said Bona’s presence was normal given the President’s age and his need for a close family member to accompany him.

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“I would say there is nothing improper in that. Given the President’s advanced age, she needed to be there. In the circumstances Mugabe is in —that is advanced age and frailty — I am not surprised,” Mandaza said.

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Zanu PF sources said the First Family was now particular and concerned with the President’s health and movements especially after his embarrassing fall at Harare International Airport. Others said Mugabe no longer trusted his security aides after the airport saga, hence the decision to rope in his family members as close aides.

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But opposition MDC Renewal Team spokesperson Jacob Mafume described the move as “a serious breach of protocol” aimed at turning the country into a monarchy.

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“It is a serious breach of protocol that we can have such a situation. We are of the view that as each day passes, Zanu PF is losing its grip on the party and government which is fast becoming a family affair and/or an absolute monarchy,” Mafume said.

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“The way things are going, the country is going to be part of a Mugabe estate to be inherited by a surviving spouse or child. We need a radical approach to stem this process.

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“We need to mobilise the people that they need to address this issue head-on before it gets out of hand,” he said.

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MDC-T spokesperson Obert Gutu said it was “disgusting and pathetic” that Mugabe’s daughter could be part of her father’s delegation on a State-sponsored trip.

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Other social scientists warned that the decision to include Bona on Mugabe’s foreign trips might end up straining her marriage. Bona wedded her pilot husband Simba Chikore last March.