Robert Mugabe back home

HARARE – Zimbabwean strongman President Robert Mugabe is back home from Japan where he attended the 3rd United Nations Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction in Sendai.

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He was met at the Harare International Airport by Vice Presidents, Emmerson Mnangagwa and Phelekezela Mphoko, senior government officials and service chiefs.

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In Japan, President Mugabe held bilateral talks with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, where Japan pledged US$2,5 million for disaster management in Zimbabwe.

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Mugabe’s daughter was on Monday seen on state TV accompanying her father on an official visit to Japan.

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The move will intensify speculation the 91-year-old is trying to shore up his family’s hold on power, press reports and the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) said.

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Bona Mugabe, who married pilot Simba Chikore last year, was shown sitting next to her father and Zimbabwean Foreign Minister Simbarashe Mumbengegwi during discussions in Tokyo.

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MDC spokesman Obert Gutu tweeted: “So is one Bona Mugabe-Chikore a member of Mugabe’s official delegation to Japan? Zimbabwe has gone to the dogs!”

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There was spirited reaction on social media, with popular blogger @CynicHarare tweeting: “One day, when my family also owns a country, I will take my daughter to work like others also.”

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Said Zimbabwean journalist @nqabamatshazi: “Father is the owner of the country, mother controls the country, now it looks like daughter is the heir to the country.”

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Analysts suggest the sudden rise of Mr Mugabe’s wife, Grace, in Zimbabwe’s deeply divided political arena may be part of a plan to ensure the “first family” retains its hold on power, after Mr Mugabe retires or dies.

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Grace is now head of the ruling Zanu (PF) party’s powerful women’s league, and she has hinted she won’t be content with just that.

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Bona, 24, is Mr Mugabe’s first child with Grace, born while his first wife Sally was still alive. She graduated with a Masters degree in banking and finance in Singapore in 2013.

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The state broadcaster is reporting that Japan has pledged $2.6m to help Zimbabwe’s disaster preparedness programmes.

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Reports say Mr Mugabe took an entourage of 100 on the trip with him.