PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe has spent more than $10 million on foreign trips since January at a time his broke government is battling to pay workers and grow the stunted economy.
Mugabe, who has been in and out of the country no less six times in the past three months, spends at least $2 million for the stay of the Air Zimbabwe, wherever he is and for allowances of his staff.
Well-placed government sources said the 91-year-old Mugabe alone, receives $600 000 in allowances, with each aide travelling with him receiving at least $500 per day depending on the destination.
Besides the travelling allowances, the State pays for the president’s hotel stay, where he stays with at least 50 aides in fancy hotels.
“The president gets $600 000 in allowances for his incidental cover and in the past two months, Treasury has paid at least $3,6 million for the presidential allowances, excluding the money given to his aides,” a source within the office of the president said.
“Air Zimbabwe gets on average $1 million for each trip depending on the route and how long the president will spend on that trip.”
The office of the president manages its own budget. The source said whenever Mugabe travelled, he went with no less than 60 aides, including a medical doctor.
Whenever the 91-year-old leader is travelling, the national carrier, Air Zimbabwe, is forced to stay with him until he returns, with sources indicating that the office of the president pays $1 million for each trip.
Since his return from Asia, where he had gone on a month-long holiday with his family, Mugabe has flown out of Zimbabwe six times, with the first trip being to Zambia where he attended the inauguration of Edgar Lungu, who replaced the late Michael Sata, who died last year.
Mugabe then left for Ethiopia for the African Union summit, where he was elected the body’s chairperson. Without spending three days in Harare, Mugabe flew out again to Asia, where he went to collect his ailing wife, Grace, who was admitted at a private hospital — all on State funding.
The president then stayed less than two weeks and was on his way to South Africa for the Sadc troika summit on Lesotho, in his capacity as the regional block’s chair.
Recently, he was in Japan for the United Nations summit on disaster and risk management where he spent a week. Upon his return, Mugabe spent barely a day in the country and flew to Namibia to witness the swearing-in of a new president Hage Geingob.
On Tuesday, Mugabe was on another flight to Algeria on a three-day State visit in North Africa.
According to sources, the president is set to fly out early next month to South Africa on a three-day State visit.
Efforts to get a comment from presidential spokesperson George Charamba were fruitless yesterday.
However, his Zanu PF party and government officials have defended the trips saying Mugabe was not only Zimbabwe’s leader, but was also leader of Sadc as well as the AU.
Speaking at a rally in Mvuma over the weekend, Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa said Mugabe now had many duties to attend to and he was likely to be out of the country very often. But the MDC-T said this was detrimental to Zimbabwe.
“The MDC-T is hugely concerned by Robert Mugabe’s frequent absence from Zimbabwe,” MDC-T spokesman Obert Gutu said.
“While the economy continues to nose-dive and the public health delivery system has literally gone to the dogs, we have a president who is now permanently domiciled aboard an Air Zimbabwe jet as he hops from one foreign destination to another.
“It is high time that Robert Mugabe is called to order.
“It’s either he chooses to enjoy his favourite past-time of flying around the globe or he stays put at State House in Harare and work very hard to ensure that Zimbabwe’s comatose economy is brought back to life.”