PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe was on Monday forced to stampede his ministers into an early cabinet meeting outside the traditional Tuesdays so he could fly out to Cuba for former president Fidel Castro’s funeral wak
The veteran leader was later seen off at Harare international airport by his deputies, cabinet ministers and senior government officials.
Castro, a 20th century revolutionary, ruled his country for nearly 50 years. He died at 90 on Friday, some years after he handed over power to his younger brother Raul.
Zimbabwe’s cabinet meetings are usually held every Tuesday and are strictly presided over by the 92-year-old leader.
Information minister Chris Mushohwe on Monday said it was not a hard and fast rule that cabinet meetings were held on Tuesdays.
“Iwe, iwe (you, you)…who said it’s a rule that cabinet must sit on Tuesdays? Even rules can change after all. Tsvaga imwe nyaya mningina (find another story my brother),” Mushowe said before terminating the conversation.
But Mugabe’s opponents saw everything wrong with a national leader who was always ready to abandon his troubled country at the earliest opportunity to fly out on a foreign trip.
PDP spokesperson Jacob Mafume was scathing in his condemnation, accusing Zanu PF of failing to see the irony which was in the world’s oldest leader attending a funeral of a younger former leader who retired at an even younger age.
“The fact that his Zanu PF cabinet parades this man to the whole world is a disgrace to the nation and we ought to be hanging our heads in shame,” he said.
“It was an act of patriotism for the Cuban party to allow Castro to retire at even a younger age than Mugabe.
“How they fail to learn from other movements is a surprise to all in Zimbabwe.”
National Constitutional Assembly spokesperson Madock Chivasa said Mugabe was better off relieved of the burden of running an entire country so he could freely enjoy his hobby of travelling.
Wasteful foreign travel
“President Mugabe must retire,” Chivasa told NewZimbabwe.com Monday.
“At his age, he should be concentrating on what he is doing, attending funerals but not as head of state but just as a respected former State President.”
Observers said the death of the revolutionary leader presented yet another excuse for Mugabe to fly out of his troubled country.
When he flew off to Havana, Mugabe was fresh from two separate trips to Morocco and Equatorial Guinea all inside the last two weeks.
Former Finance Minister and now PDP president Tendai Biti says Mugabe carries up to $6 million in cash each time he went out on a foreign trip.
When he travels, his government juniors are often reluctant to take far reaching decisions concerning the country’s affairs.
Those who have decided to exercise their executive discretion have often found themselves being humiliated as soon as Mugabe touches down at the Harare International Airport through a reversal of the decision.
Critics say Mugabe’s endless trips have had no direct benefit to the country.
George Charamba, who by virtue of being Mugabe’s spokesperson has been a beneficiary of Mugabe’s lucrative trips, has defended his boss’s travels outside the country.
“You guys (journalists) must go back to school. I plead with you,” he said earlier this year.
“If you are in the habit of reducing foreign policy to the number of hours on the plane and days out of the country, then you are very ignorant.
“There is not a single journalist who has engaged me on the value of the trips, everyone is fixated with the number of hours a plane takes to get to a destination. Is that what you are capable of? Cry the beloved profession!”
Charamba was commenting to private media reports Mugabe virtually spends days in the air if all his travelling hours were to be combined.
The Zimbabwean leader often travels with huge delegations which have gobbled millions in travelling allowances from treasury.
Some have cautioned his congested travelling itinerary was detrimental to his deteriorating health.
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