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IMAGES of Burundi President Pierre Nkurunziza playing football in protest-hit Bujumbura last week go a long way to show how African despots engage in trivialities while their countries are burning.

Nkurunziza, who had survived a coup a few days earlier, found pleasure in kicking, heading and chasing the ball with his friends, sending a message that he was unmoved by the daily protests against his unconstitutional bid for a third term.

While Zimbabwe may not have someone with the same level of idiocy as Nkurunziza, by choosing to spend most of his time outside the country, President Robert Mugabe might actually be surpassing the Burundi tyrant’s exploits.

As company closures and unemployment worsens in Zimbabwe, Mugabe has not hesitated to fly from one destination to another since the beginning of the year, clocking 140 000km in the air and blowing $50 million at a time when government is failing to pay civil servants.

His unnecessary travels have taken him to Tanzania, Singapore, South Africa, Hong Kong, Japan, Algeria, Zambia, Indonesia, Namibia and Ethiopia.

Recently, he has been to Russia and Mali and he did spend the greater part of last week in Botswana. When he was finally home on Friday, a tired Mugabe kept people waiting for the official handover of agricultural equipment donated by the Brazilian government for over five hours. He could have been asleep.

When he arrived at 2pm, Mugabe inaertently let slip the worrying fact that even his children had to wait until the wee hours to get a chance to see their father who is now seen as a visitor to Zimbabwe.

“When I arrived home [past midnight] my daughter and her husband were waiting to see me,” he said. “They left at 3am and after taking a bath, I realised it was 4am. I only realised the [handover ceremony] programme was supposed to follow immediately.

Anyway, these are some of the internal in-house issues that we have to deal with,” said the frail-looking President.

Common sense dictates that at 91, Mugabe should have long retired from public service and much more importantly, must stop unnecessary foreign journeys that bleed the treasury each time he flies out of the country with a huge entourage.

Like Nkurunziza, who plays soccer when 20 Burundians have died and over 100 000 are now refugees, Mugabe has shown us that he does not mind about the problems facing the country. Even if the whole population of Zimbabwe is being reduced to vendors, Mugabe could be busy looking at the world map wondering where he would want to go next. That indifferent attitude is typical with autocrats who run down their countries and hang on to power until they drop dead.

Source : Zimbabwe Standard