By Sij Ncube
Harare, January 19, 2016 – PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe is literally running Zimbabwe from Dubai, amid reports second vice president Phelekezela Mphoko is in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to “take notes” from the Zanu PF leader presently holidaying with his family in the Gulf as the political and economic crisis snowballs.
Mphoko left Harare Monday last week, hardly a week after first Vice President Emmerson Mnangwgwa returned from Dubai where he reportedly met and held meetings with Mugabe, who also took his son-in-law for the excursion.
But the shuttling between Harare and Dubai, suspected to be bankrolled by the long-suffering taxpayers, is raising eyebrows and concerns as the nation reels from a myriad of political and economic problems, top among them the economic meltdown and the prevailing devastating ground in which an estimated one million people are in urgent need of food relief.
The seemingly deadly succession battle in Zanu PF, which last week saw Mnangagwa’s office burglared and Sports’ minister Makhosini Hlongwani receiving a bullet has heightened tensions within Mugabe’s faction-riddled party.
Critics are adamant Mugabe is presently running Zanu PF and the government from his holiday nest hence the shuttling between Harare and Dubai by his deputies.
David Coltart, a former minister in Mugabe’s cabinet during the ill-fated government of national unity (GNU), says what is of concern is that the President of the country is absent from it “for such a long period of time especially during a national crisis such as the one we are facing.”
“It is inappropriate for any leader to be away for such a long time in such a luxurious destination whilst people are not being paid on time and whilst many are starving. It demonstrates complete insensitivity to the suffering of Zimbabweans,” said Coltart, a fiery critic of the Zanu PF leader.
But political analyst, Maxwell Saungweme, speaking from his base in Afghanistan, notes that Zimbabwe has been in auto pilot since the end of GNU.
“These men and women of Zanu PF at the helm are a clueless lot. The country is facing three emergencies right now-draught, economic collapse and a political crisis. This is the time when the head should be here setting up taskforces to deal with these serious emergencies,” said Saungweme.
“But in our case with a broke government the President runs the country from Dubai. This is shame and an obscenity. Zimbabweans are taken for granted die to docility.”
Obert Gutu, MDC-T spokesperson said: “It would appear that the Zimbabwean Presidency is now permanently domiciled in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Dubai to be exact. Zimbabwe is now being run (or is it ruined), from Dubai.”
Mnangagwa is reported to have hired a private jet on his jaunt before New Year to see Mugabe although Mugabe’s administration Saturday vehemently denied the report linking him to the hiring of an expensive jet to the Gulf.
However, the government did not dispute that he met with Mugabe. Pictures of Mugabe, Mnangagwa and their families in Dubai were splashed in the media.
On Sunday, a leading private weekly reported that Mphoko was in Dubai together with his family amid jokes on social media he has gone to take notes from Grace, Mugabe’s wife who last year made startling claims the two vice presidents routinely took notes from her.
Jacob Mafume, spokesperson for Tendai Biti’s Peoples Democratic Party, said it is scandalous and a waste of a scarce resources that Mnangagwa and Mphoko compete to get instructions from Dubai.
“The public, who could not afford rural holidays, are made to foot holidays for these old man and their families in far off places at an expense. As a country, we are looking for fish in the trees if we think that a 92 year old will run this country. The up and down travelling of the vice president is clownish if it was not such a waste of the country’s resources,” said Mafume.
Analysts say Mugabe is ruling the country through Grace and the jaunts by the two VPs to Dubai were just confirmation she is a very important centre of power. She is seen as having all the aces on her sleeves. Others see her as the real game in town and calls the shorts, the de facto second most senior member of Zanu PF who the First Lady and the Actual VP.
Vivid Gwede, a Harare-based human rights activist and political analyst, said Dubai has suddenly become the political Mecca, where the vice presidency embodied in the two incumbents, has to pay homage to the political godfather.
“It is part of the usual expression of allegiances, and yes, the capital of Zimbabwe has relocated to Dubai where the country is temporarily being run from, until the centre of power vested in the First Family physically returns home from the holiday. But you cannot miss the public spectacle this creates,” said Gwede.