SINCE his January return from the Far East where he had his annual holiday, President Robert Mugabe, who turned 91 this year, has been to several countries.
The now SADC and AU chair, has been to Singapore twice. He has also travelled to countries such as Japan, South Africa, Namibia, Ethiopia and was in Algeria of late.
As if this is not too demanding an itinerary, Mugabe is now destined for Ethiopia, again on AU business.
Even before assuming chairmanship of the two blocs, Mugabe’s knack for travelling was already a subject of debate among locals.
How his itinerary doubles and even trebles those of world leaders of richer countries is mysterious.
Sympathisers still see nothing amiss with an aging leader of a country in serious economic trouble gallivanting to all corners of the globe with no tangible returns for his struggling people.
Said Vivian Banhire, a Mugabe admirer: “It’s not an issue that he is travelling.
â€œWhat we must ask ourselves is, ‘is he not doing his job locally’? He chaired cabinet before he left.”
Some say Mugabe is now too old and could be stressing his body by embarking on lengthy trips.
But Banhire quipped: “I don’t see a 91 year old in him; l see the President of Zimbabwe who chairs the AU and SADC.”
Mugabe’s critics have condemned him for allegedly blowing an estimated US$10 million in foreign trips.
They also chastised him for allegedly turning his back on a burning nation to concentrate on his travels.
Before a travel ban to Europe was imposed at the turn of the century, Mugabe was already being condemned for his frequent foreign travels, at some point being referred to as a “non-resident President” by University of Zimbabwe students.
By his own admission last week, Mugabe said his travel schedule was sapping his energy. Even so, he still found cause to jump on toÂ another plane for Algeria.
Asked to explain his boss’s endless foreign travels, George Charamba told Newzimbabwe.com Friday Mugabe’s trips were necessary.
“You guys (journalists) must go back to school. I plead with you,” he said, adding, “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!”
President Mugabe has at his disposal, two able bodied deputies he can easily delegate to run some of his foreign errands.
Asked about this, Charamba became agitated, “You are not going to tell the president when to delegate and when not to delegate, where you sit ikokoko nhai shamwari â€¦
â€œâ€¦ on your little desk rejournalism, you tell the President kuti delegate this don’t delegate this, iwewe! Don’t be presumptuous, what do you know about state craft.
“The President is a combination of the SADC chairmanship as well as the AU chairman. There is a price to be paid for leadership Sir!
â€œIt doesn’t come cheap, and by the way whoever told Zimbabweans that foreign policy is cheap, is completely mistaken; foreign policy costs … come on!”