Home » Governance » From Russia With Nothing, Bob Leaves Harare for Mali [opinion]

IF being president was about travelling to foreign capitals, few leaders could claim to be working harder than President Robert Mugabe.

The veteran leader maintains a busy travel schedule despite reportedly struggling with poor health and the nuisances of old age, having turned 91 this year.

On Thursday he left Harare for Mali.

He had barely rested his aged legs after returning home Tuesday from another a trip to Russia where he gazed at parades commemorating the 70th anniversary of the defeat of Nazi Germany.

Before that, and this year alone, he had been to several African countries as well as Japan and Indonesia.

Aides say the trips are necessary because Mugabe chairs the African Union and the regional SADC grouping.

But political opponents charge that Mugabe’s insatiable penchant for foreign travel is bankrupting the government which admits it is struggling for money.

Neither the AU nor SADC pick up the tab for the trips.

The opposition MDC-T party recently claimed that the president had blown millions travelling abroad at a time nurses are striking over pay.

“The situation is out of hand. It’s alarming. It’s frightening. It’s criminal that you can spend $12,5 million on travelling and you can’t put that money either into health or education,” said MDC-T spokesman Obert Gutu.

“At this rate, the $28 million which was spent last year on foreign travels could be easily surpassed.”

Tough, said Mugabe’s spokesman, George Charamba, in a recent interview.

‘Foreign policy is not cheap’

“The President is a combination of the SADC chairmanship as well as the AU chairman,” Charamba told NewZimbabwe.com earlier this year.

“There is a price to be paid for leadership Sir! It doesn’t come cheap, and by the way whoever told Zimbabweans that foreign policy is cheap, is completely mistaken foreign policy costs…come on!”

But Mugabe would have felt the trips were particularly crucial.

In Indonesia and Moscow he held meetings with Russian president Vladimir Putin and China’s Xi Jinping, no doubt following up on ‘mega deals’ the state media claims he has agreed with them.

Little emerged from the respective meetings on what Beijing and Moscow where doing to follow up promises to invest billions in Zimbabwe.

During the meeting at the Kremlin Mugabe tried to show that Zimbabwe and Russia were in it together, telling Putin that, “You have sanctions, we have sanctions”. The Russian leader simply smiled back at him.

Officials said Thursday that the Zanu PF leader was travelling to Bamako to attend the signing ceremony for a peace deal between the Mali government and Toureg rebels.

Accompanied by Foreign Affairs Minister Simbarashe Mumbengegwi and other senior Government officials, Mugabe was invited to Mali in his capacity as chairman of the African Union.

“There was a rebellion by the Tuaregs in the north,” Mumbengegwi.

“It happened while I was there and I was held up for some time.

“The government of Mali and the rebels have now reached an agreement that has been initiated by the parties.

“The AU set up a peacekeeping force and also asked the United Nations to assist.

“President Mugabe will be part of this process, which has seen peace return to Mali.”

Before leaving Harare for Mali, Mugabe had officiated at the 2015 police Presidential Graduation Parade of 698 officers in Harare.

Source : New Zimbabwe