PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe has come under fire for going on an expensive holiday in the Far East at a time his government is failing to pay pensioners and the economy is tottering towards implosion.
BY RICHARD CHIDZA
Mugabe left the country last Wednesday after throwing a lavish party for his ministers at State House.
Vice-President Phelekezela Mphoko will be acting president until the 91-year-old leader returns home towards end of next month.
However, opposition parties and political analysts said Mugabe should have remained at home during his annual break to show that he is concerned about the crisis engulfing Zimbabwe.
Academic Ibbo Mandaza said Mugabe appeared not to understand the nature of problems surrounding Zimbabwe that needed his close attention.
He said First Lady Grace Mugabe was running the show, albeit in a chaotic manner, to the detriment of the country.
“Mugabe seems oblivious to the mayhem around him, [he] is living on another planet,” Mandaza said.
“The situation cannot continue like this for long or we are heading for a complete political meltdown.
“The succession issue is eating at the State and Mugabe has mishandled it.
“His wife has made things worse, he has lost control, his actions appear impromptu, not well thought out and the likelihood that anything can happen is very high.”
The government is yet to pay its former workers their November pensions and the majority of civil servants have not been paid December salaries.
Payment dates for civil servants’ bonuses, which were due in November, remain unknown.
People’s Democratic Party (PDP) spokesperson Jacob Mafume said Mugabe did not deserve to go on leave this year as he had failed to discharge his duties.
“Anyone who still believes that Mugabe and Zanu PF will bring solutions to the country’s socio-economic and political problems is no different from a child who believes that Santa drops gifts through a house chimney,” he charged.
“It is clear that the ruling party and its leader have abandoned the country.
“It is unforgivable that Mugabe ups and leaves the country at a time when his compatriots, the pensioners and civil servants are unpaid.
“It is shocking that someone takes a sabbatical from the affairs of the State at a time when it is burning.
“This is the time he needed to show direction and leadership, but instead he pays himself a bonus and all the trinkets he wants then goes away.”
Activist Dewa Mavhinga said Mugabe was more concerned about problems within his Zanu PF party than problems facing ordinary people.
“No-one should be surprised that the Zanu PF leader will not miss enjoying his holiday even at a time when his government has not paid civil servants and pensioners,” he said.
“Mugabe and Zanu PF are not preoccupied with serving the interests of Zimbabweans first, but rather with fighting and jostling for political power internally.
“All their energy seems to be reserved for infighting and not putting people first.
“All they seem to care about are their personal interests and flaunting their obscene wealth in front of toiling and suffering masses.”
MDC-T secretary general Douglas Mwonzora said Mugabe was being contemptuous of Zimbabwe by choosing to holiday in the Far East when the country was sinking deeper into an economic crisis.
“What Mugabe has done displays irresponsibility on the part of his government,” he said.
“Given the state of the economy and the plight of civil servants as well as pensioners; one would not expect a responsible leader to take his annual leave even if it is contractual.”
Mafume said Zimbabweans could not be expected to have confidence in Mphoko who had spent a year staying at an upmarket hotel in Harare at the taxpayer’s expense.
“Mphoko is confused because now he has no one to bootlick and this is the same man who wants the State to build him a $4 million house when government workers are unpaid,” he said.
A vice-president, even when acting as Head of State, cannot convene Cabinet meetings, a situation which in the past has seen government business almost grinding to halt during Mugabe’s absence.
However, University of Zimbabwe political science lecturer Charity Manyeruke said she saw nothing wrong with Mugabe spending his holiday in foreign lands amid a crisis back home.
“I see nothing wrong. He needs the rest after a hectic year and like all people, it is part of his contract and conditions of service,” she said.
“In fact, the reason why civil servants and pensioners have not been paid is because of sanctions that we must all fight and force the West to remove.”
Manyeruke said it was untrue that Rhodesian Prime Minister Ian Smith’s regime was able to cope under sanctions, while Mugabe’s government used the restrictions to justify its poor track record.
“You cannot compare the two because Smith’s government was discriminatory and served the interests of a select part of the population,” she claimed.
“The Zanu PF government is serving the whole population, including the majority blacks rather than the minority that Smith concentrated on.”
This year Mugabe only returned home on January 26 after leaving the country in early December 2014 for his annual holiday.
He revealed they used most of the time to seek treatment for Grace who had her appendix removed at one of the top hospitals in Asia.