Mugabe family struggles to adjust

The First family share a moment with grandson Simbanashe after cutting the cake during the 21st February Movement celebrations in Matopos, Matabeleland South Province.(Picture by Eliah Saushoma)
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GOVERNMENT has made drastic cuts to former president Robert Mugabe’s travel expenditure after the ousted long-time leader and his family flew out of Harare to Singapore this week, nearly a month after his 37-year term came to a dramatic end following a soft military coup.

By Bernard Mpofu/Wongai Zhangazha

This comes as it emerged that Mugabe spent US$32,1 million on foreign trips between January and September this year against an annual budget of US$20,6 million. The Office of the President and Cabinet also spent US$1,1 million on domestic travel as of September against a budget of US$650 000.

Officials close to this situation also revealed the former leader’s security team at his Borrowdale “Blue Roof” mansion was also reduced from 85 to 20.

Sources familiar with developments at Mugabe’s mansion told the Zimbabwe Independent this week that the nonagenarian was granted the presidential Air Zimbabwe aircraft (AZW1) when his family and security team left the country on Monday evening. Former first lady Grace Mugabe, the sources said, took six security personnel after resisting efforts to reduce her security details to three.

It is also understood the Police Protection Unit, which provides VIP protection, withdrew its team from Mugabe’s motorcade last Friday. Following last month’s military intervention, which brought a crashing end to Mugabe’s authoritarian rule, his family had been scattered across different countries before reuniting last week. It has also got together in Singapore.

According to figures obtained from the 2018 National Budget, the Office of the President and Cabinet spent US$32,1 million on foreign trips, although the trips have yielded little in tangible results for Zimbabweans. The expenditure came at a time Treasury is struggling to pay civil servants as well as finance capital projects and social service delivery.

In a massive decline from the previous years, Treasury allocated US$17 million to the Office of the President and Cabinet for foreign travel and US$700 000 for domestic travel in the 2018 budget.

Treasury figures show that the public sector wage bill currently accounts for 90% of government income, starving other critical sectors of funding.

Mugabe flew to Singapore, where his daughter Bona, son-in-law Simba Chikore and grandson Simbanashe have been stationed since the military take-over.

Bona is expecting her second child.

Mugabe’s fun-loving sons Robert Junior and Bellarmine Chatunga were staying at their affluent Sandhurst mansion in Sandton, Johannesburg, South Africa, until they came back last week to face reality.

“AZW1 departed at 2100hrs with 18 crew and 23 passengers on Monday night. Mugabe had to compromise by allowing a smaller contingency, as well as a smaller security team, so that Grace could be allowed to travel with a six-member security team for herself. He also reduced the security team accompanying him, although Grace refused to take three security people with her. In the past he would have taken over 80 people,” a source said. “For Mugabe, he ended up flying out with three security people, although three others had already left before him. The former presidential limousine, the bullet-proof S-Class 600 Pullman, now has ordinary yellow plates and his departure was low-key given the cut in security.”

The Independent also has it on good authority that Mugabe’s successor President Emmerson Mnangagwa has granted his former boss some wing at Zimbabwe House to use as his office during his retirement.

“He will use that wing to host visitors who may want to visit him during his retirement. He also has a library space that he may choose to use. Mnangagwa wants Mugabe to be as comfortable as possible during his retirement,” a security source said.

The Mugabe family has a multi-million-dollar empire built around numerous farms, prime real estate, various businesses and lucrative tenders which they wrested for self-aggrandisement.

The family also benefitted heavily, directly and indirectly, from public funds during Mugabe’s endless globe-trotting trips and salted away some of the money.

On some occasions, the family also used public funds to acquire private assets, but their empire is now facing collapse. – ZimInd