Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe’s month-long annual vacation in the Far East is set to cost a whopping R85 million at a time when the southern African country’s economy is facing severe challenges.
Mugabe and his family, including a large entourage of security aides, left the capital Harare for Singapore on Tuesday night aboard a chartered flight.
They are only expected back in the country at the end of January 2017.
Zimbabwe’s former finance minister Tendai Biti has reportedly told the local Newsday newpaper that Mugabe collects about R55 million from Treasury each time he embarks on foreign trips, aside from the usual R85 million, when he goes on his annual leave.
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Biti was quoted as saying: “Every time the president leaves the country, he takes with him $4m in hard cash, which in most cases is raided from the RTGS (Real Time Gross Settlement) system.
“This is part of the reason why we have cash shortages, because accounts for ordinary people are raided to fund unnecessary travel. With his relatives and security personnel over the month-long holiday, he could spend close to $6m.”
Zimbabwean authorities are failing to service the wage bill, and at least 90% of the country’s citizens are unemployed.
It is also reported that the amount that Mugabe could spend during the current vacation may even be much higher, as no exact figures could be obtained from Treasury.
Mugabe’s spokesperson, George Charamba, revealed that the president would embark on other official trips in during his vacation.
“The [annual] leave shall be interspersed with official engagements, including one which is related to the African Union,” Charamba said.
Mugabe will be joining other leaders of the continental body, who are expected to convene in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, from January 27 to 31 for the grouping’s 28th summit.