PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe yesterday revealed that his busy travelling schedule may be taking a toll on him, as he only slept for two hours after arriving from Namibia before heading for Kutama Mission’s centenary celebrations.
“I want to thank you all for coming I was disjointed we came back at midnight so I had two hours of sleep and naturally, I have the habit that if I have something that worries my mind, my mind sleeps on it and I constantly jump out of sleep and say is it not time, is it not time. That is why we were a bit late,” Mugabe said.
Mugabe, who has been globe-trotting almost weekly since December last year, is reportedly set to leave for Algeria on a State visit this week before flying to Ethiopia on African Union business.
Mugabe’s schedule in the next few weeks gets particularly hectic, as he has to travel to South Africa on an official State visit and he may have to attend a meeting of the Non-Aligned Movement, before officiating, as he has traditionally done, at Zimbabwe’s Independence Day celebrations.
The president’s admission came as speculation was rife that last week his ailing wife, First Lady Grace had reportedly slipped out of the country to seek medical attention.
Yesterday, the First Lady was not at the Kutama Centenary Celebrations in Zvimba, at which Mugabe officiated.
It could, however, not be ascertained whether Grace was in the country or not as she has been out of the public spotlight for the past few weeks.
Mugabe’s foreign trips have continued to increase against a backdrop of hardships spawned by his government’s failed economic policies.
Algerian ambassador to Zimbabwe, Nacerdine Said, last week confirmed during a briefing with Mugabe that the Zanu PF strongman would embark on a trip to Algeria that was expected to strengthen bilateral relations between the two countries.
“I told the president (Mugabe) that President Abdelaziz Bouteflika and the people of Algeria were ready to welcome him and once again expressing solidarity and friendship with the people of Zimbabwe,” the diplomat was quoted saying at the weekend.
Mugabe has made seven trips since January 21 on official and personal business. Political analysts yesterday said Mugabe’s public admission of fatigue confirmed that Zimbabwe was facing a leadership crisis.
Media Centre director Earnest Mudzengi said the implications of having a globe-trotting president were dire as the country was left on auto-pilot.
“I think the implications if we continue to have a president who is always travelling is that we are at risk of having a situation where major decisions cannot be made because the politburo or Cabinet cannot sit in his absence,” he said.
“In that case, issues that require urgency and swift decisions are not attended to and the economy continues to suffer.”
Political analyst Takura Zhangazha said it appeared Mugabe was now primarily pre-occupied with foreign affairs instead of addressing domestic issues.
“It is clear that his priorities list is wrong,” he said.
“At the moment he thinks more about foreign affairs than the domestic issues affecting the country.”
Zhangazha said Mugabe was not honest about being tired because he had the final say on his foreign itinerary.
“It is his decision and he can’t blame anyone,” he said.
“No one imposed on him the decision to travel to Algeria, so he can’t claim to be tired.
“He is not being honest,” he said.
“It is his office that decides where he goes. He can even send his deputies to represent him.”
Opposition parties have condemned Mugabe’s frequent trips abroad, saying they were a huge burden on the fiscus, with the MDC-T describing the octogenarian Zanu PF leader, who turned 91 last month as “selfish and insensitive”.
“We ask God as Zimbabweans what sins we have committed to deserve such a selfish and insensitive leader for these long years,” party spokesperson Obert Gutu said.
“It is not morally right for Mugabe to be hopping from one aeroplane onto another at huge State expense.”