Opposition parties have condemned President Robert Mugabe’s frequent trips abroad, saying it was immoral that he was globe-trotting at great expense to the fiscus at a time when the country is facing many serious challenges, including a comatose economy.
Mugabe, who only returned home from a two-month long sojourn in the Far East on January 21 this year, has since then embarked on at least seven foreign trips.
His political rivals said yesterday that the nonagenarian should resign or focus his efforts on finding urgently-needed solutions to the myriad crises afflicting the country.
Among recent problems, and in addition to the country’s plummeting economic fortunes, inmates at Chikurubi Maximum Prison have rioted over poor diet, leaving five people dead — while lecturers at State universities have downed their tools, culminating in mass demonstrations by students.
MDC youths have also demonstrated over the yet-to-be-solved abduction of political activist Itai Dzamara, while the chaos in Mugabe’s ruling Zanu PF party, spawned by his failure to deal with intra-party issues related to rampant factionalism and his succession — which analysts fear could trigger unprecedented anarchy in the country.
Opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai’s MDC described the president’s numerous foreign trips yesterday as “selfish and insensitive,” further called on the long-ruling leader to retire as a matter of urgency.
“We ask God as Zimbabweans what sins we have committed to deserve such a selfish and insensitive leader for these long years. It is not morally right for Mugabe to be hopping from one aeroplane onto another at huge State expense,” party spokesperson Obert Gutu said.
He said while millions of Zimbabweans could not afford one decent meal a day, “we have a ruler who wants to lead life on the fast lane at the taxpayers’ expense”.
“I am sure he has clocked more flying hours than the average commercial pilot at any airline in the world.
“Here is a man who is completely oblivious of the fact that the national economy is in shambles and that more than 90 percent of the people that he is supposed to be leading are wallowing in abject poverty and destitution,” Gutu said.
Renewal team spokesperson, Jacob Mafume, said the president’s frequent trips were not only immoral but a gross dereliction of duty.
“He seems determined to engage in presidential tourism, taking his children to places where they have never been. It is as if he is saying goodbye to all the places he has ever known at the expense of the ever-suffering Zimbabwean population.
“If we had known that when he campaigned to be president all he wanted was to travel … we could have put it in his retirement package,” Mafume said.
Zapu leader Dumiso Dabengwa said Mugabe’s resignation was long overdue.
“Our view has not changed. Just before the 2013 election we said the man is old. He has overstayed his time in office and he should go and rest. He is no longer rational.
“I don’t think he is able to balance issues that really are important for the nation. The bottom line is the issue of age. God has given him enough time and he should be thankful,” Dabengwa said.
Transform Zimbabwe president Jacob Ngarivhume concurred with Dabengwa, saying one could not expect rationality from a 91-year-old who was no longer “in control of his faculties”.
“How can he be making these trips when human rights activists like Dzamara are missing? University lecturers have also not been paid, … and we have the president chartering an Air Zimbabwe plane.
“How do you expect the national airliner to survive and when about 80 percent of revenue is going towards civil servants? It is unacceptable.
“As Transform Zimbabwe, we have always maintained that the failure of Zimbabwe has been a failure of leadership,” Ngarivhume said.
Political analyst Maxwell Saungweme said there was nothing wrong for a 91-year-old to be globe-trotting, as long as such trips were not funded by the State.
“But given that the government is broke and the economy is on its knees, there is no plausible justification that can be given for such trips whether morally,” he said.
Hubert Humphrey fellow at the University of Minnesota, Gladys Hlatshwayo, said one would expect the president to focus on pressing issues at this difficult time in the country.
“Just recently, we had shocking statistics of children dropping out of school among other pressing issues. Sadly, our president is always on the plane.
“One would have expected the president to have more focus on domestic matters as these trips also cost us huge sums of money, in light of his usually large entourage.
“I also think that by having such a hectic schedule, he is not doing himself a favour health-wise, given his advanced age,” she said.
Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition director, Mcdonald Lewanika said it was “morally repugnant to have an absentee president”, who instead of staying at home to provide leadership was busy “jet-setting”.
“I guess asking Mugabe to lead now is asking for too much as he has failed to do so in all the time that he has been in office over the last 35 years.
“The country needs a present leadership with the presence of mind to get the country out of its current malaise,” he added.