PRESIDENT Emmerson Mnangagwa has been travel-busy lately, making one-day trips to South Africa, Angola and Namibia, in just under a month.
He is due in Mozambique and Zambia next for one-day curtesy calls on counterparts this week before attending the African Union Summit later in the month and the World Economic Forum in Switzerland.
Too much, and Mugabe-like?
Former President Robert Mugabe regularly caused outrage with his apparently insatiable penchant for foreign travel.
The veteran leader would leave Harare with huge delegations several days before international meetings and return long after the events had ended, supposedly to maximise on expense claims. Added to that was regular medical tourism to Singapore.
The travel cost the effectively bankrupt country millions of dollars every year, but the veteran leader ignored the criticism and continued to attende nearly every international meeting.
Experts however, say Mnangagwa’s regional diplomatic shuttling is understandable, and necessary even. They reckon he has some explaining to do in view of the manner in which he took over power.
“The trips are justified in light of the special circumstances that led to the birth of the new leadership … provided they do not become routine and end up like the Mugabe globetrotting ones,” said University of Zimbabwe lecturer Professor Eldred Masunungure.
Political activists warned, though, about the development of “Mugabe tendencies”.
“I think Mnangagwa is slowly becoming another Mugabe in terms of failing to control expenditure,” said Harare-based campaigner Gift Ostalos Siziba.
“One of Zimbabwe’s problems is expenditure by officials in government, specifically the executive. With the limited budget we have, these trips are taking too much from government’s coffers.”
For Chitungwiza resident Taurai Zvirimumwoyo however, Mnangagwa’s trips will help “consolidate relationships with Zimbabwe’s neighbours”.
“We are not concerned about the expenditure as long as we establish good ties with our neighbours. Who knows, we might get some financial assistance for our dead economy.
Warren Park-based Godknows Homwe added; “Sometimes it (travelling) is necessary if it is meant for a positive cause, especially for a renewed confidence and integration with other countries; there is need for such kind of engagements.”
Mnangagwa has said the meetings area aimed at explaining the “transition” underway in Zimbabwe to regional leaders after Mugabe’s resignation.
Speaking during his visit to Angola, Mnangagwa said; “As you are aware, I first went to South Africa to brief the chairman of Sadc, President Jacob Zuma.
“President Lourenco is the chairman of the Organ on Politics, Defence and Security, so he is the second person I wanted to brief about the transition in Zimbabwe.