Eyebrows have been raised about the circumstances surrounding President Robert Mugabe’s daughter, Bona, chaperoning the nonagenarian and occupying a high and visible position during his official engagements in Japan.
Both social media and dinner table tittle tattle in the country have been agog over the past few days as Bona has taken an unusually high profile role during her father’s official State engagements with senior Japanese government officials, including the East Asian giant’s leader, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
Pictures of Mugabe and Bona in meetings with Abe, on the sidelines of the UN World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction being held in Japan, have been splashed around the world over the past few days, raising eyebrows back home about whether the 91-year-old was turning Zimbabwe into a monarchy.
Ordinarily, Mugabe is accompanied in his formal meetings by his ministers, and by Grace on social engagements. But on this occasion, Bona is seen in one of the pictures seating on Mugabe’s right while
Foreign Affairs minister Simbarashe Mumbengegwi is seated on his left with Local Government minister Ignatius Chombo.
It was not immediately clear if Bona was merely acting as the increasingly frail Mugabe’s caregiver on this visit — as Grace recuperates from her recent minor operation undertaken in Singapore — or if she has quietly joined government as an advisor to her father.
Mugabe’s spokesperson, George Charamba, was not available for comment yesterday to explain Bona’s role in the official meetings.
But opposition political parties moved to savage the nonagenarian leader yesterday, expressing disquiet with the presence of the president’s daughter — who recently married pilot Simba Chikore in a lavish wedding in Harare — at his official engagements in Sendai, Japan.
MDC spokesperson, Obert Gutu, accused Mugabe of “effectively privatising” the country.
“This clearly shows that the State has been virtually privatised by the Mugabe dynasty. Robert Mugabe thinks that he is Zimbabwe and that Zimbabwe is Robert Mugabe.
“As the MDC, we strongly condemn the privatisation of the State by the crumbling and kleptocratic Mugabe regime.
“There’s absolutely no justification why one Bona Mugabe-Chikore should have been included as part of the official government delegation to Japan. Last time I checked, Bona is not a government official.
“Why, therefore, should State funds be utilised to fund her jamboree to Japan,” Gutu thundered.
The deputy spokesperson of Welshman Ncube’s MDC, Sibongile Mgijima, also panned Bona’s presence at Mugabe’s official engagements.
“What business does Bona have in Japan, in connection with government business? She was simply on a State-paid holiday and shopping spree.
“This is not the first time this has happened, but as Zimbabweans we don’t lift a finger about it. It is time for us to stand up for our rights,” Mgijima said.
United Kingdom-based lawyer and former special advisor to opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai, Alex Magaisa, warned that Mugabe might be grooming his daughter for a political career.
“The President adores his daughter Bona. He has spoken highly of her in the past, far more than he does of his sons. But the trouble is, she is in her mid-twenties.
“She is too young and probably delicate for the harsh world of Zimbabwean politics. Her recent marriage may have served a purpose less imagined, to graduate her in the eyes of people; to say that she is a mother of the house and therefore, old enough to be a leader of people.
“I would not be surprised if he has entertained thoughts of appointing her too into the politburo, so that she gets some
apprenticeship while he is still in charge.
“That way, the young one will grow and learn the tricks of the political trade under the protective wing of the old gladiator that her father is. With mother Grace controlling the women’s wing, the path will be clear for the young lady.
“I can’t imagine anyone in Zanu PF resisting such a move. After what we have seen recently, anything is possible,” Magaisa said.
Most social media discussions centred on why Bona, and not her mother Grace had accompanied Mugabe on the visit, and why her husband was not visible on the trip.
“It’s clear that Bob’s intention is to make this country his kingdom.
“Unfortunately, I don’t think he will succeed in doing that. The great Crocodile wouldn’t allow that to happen,” one angry Twitter user quipped yesterday.
Another one simply asked, “Where is her husband?”
Another contributor on the web also said this was “the start of a dynasty”, further asking, “who is paying for each and every hotel room and food and allowances (for Mugabe’s large entourage) while the people of Zimbabwe die of hunger, wear second hand clothes and have no jobs while she has the best job in the land, wow?”.
“It’s a very sad state of affairs that a married woman is always at her father’s (side) attending to matters that should not concern her.
“It only shows that Bob is very insecure and cannot even trust his close aides to help him.
“That is why the wife and daughter are always close by to catch him should he fall. Since the wife is not feeling well, the daughter takes care of matters both big and small,” another contributor to a website said.
“For me this has (more) to do with the fall (Mugabe’s) at Harare International Airport than Bona being groomed. She is less than thirty years at the moment, meaning that it will take her more than 10 years to become eligible for (the) presidency in terms of the Constitution.
“So there is no chance Mugabe is thinking about that, he knows he can not remain in office until he reaches 101 years,” yet another social media commentator said.
“The country is in debt because of non-national issues.
“Zanu PF should learn that you get satisfaction in generating your own money as opposed to enjoying other people’s hard work, they will want interest for their money, they are not giving it to you for free, they are investing.
“Zimbabwe has a capacity to generate more revenue in natural resources alone as compared to Japan per annum, but laziness and corruption of leadership prevents any gains from the resources to reach the mainstream economy.
“When these Eastern countries start demanding their dues, where is Zanu PF going to face? North perhaps? I feel for the next generation who will find themselves paying the whole world for the luxuries of Zanu PF yet lacking basics in their own backyard,” yet another critic said.