President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s revelation that the United Arab Emirates (UAE) paid for his recent trip to Abu Dhabi has raised more questions than answers.
Zimbabweans have been demanding answers from government for the past week after revelations that Mnangagwa hired an expensive private jet to fly him to the UAE.
A few days after returning home he hired the same private jet — a VIP Airbus A318 — for his one-day trip to Bulawayo from Harare.
Mnangagwa’s spokesperson George Charamba told this publication last Sunday that the government had paid for the president’s trips to Abu Dhabi and Bulawayo.
Finance minister Mthuli Ncube also said the same when he was quizzed about the president’s penchant for expensive travel by senators last week.
However, Mnangagwa’s version of the story at the Zanu PF central committee meeting on Friday brought a new dimension into the debate about his foreign jaunts.
One obvious question that arises from the crown prince of Abu Dhabi’s alleged benevolence is: What has Mnangagwa given or promised in return for these trips where he uses luxurious jets?
It would be naïve to assume that a country would splash millions of dollars on a foreign leader’s luxury trips and expect nothing in return.
Mnangagwa’s explanation must be read in the context of earlier pronouncements by Charamba and Ncube.
The top government officials spoke about money being drawn from the government to pay for these trips.
Granted, the generous crown prince paid for the UAE trip, but Zimbabweans deserve to know where the money to hire private jets for the other trips the president has undertaken since coming into power after the November 2017 coup came from.
Mnangagwa has travelled outside the country at least 30 times and most of those travels were made using luxurious private jets.
Zimbabwe is struggling to feed its own people and recently the United Nations sent out a $234 million appeal to feed millions of people that are facing starvation this year.
At the time Mnangagwa was flying to Abu Dhabi, Cyclone Idai was wreaking havoc in Manicaland and Masvingo provinces — killing hundreds of people, displacing thousands and destroying infrastructure.
Again, the country has no capacity to provide food, shelter and medicines for the displaced, a void that is being filled by donors.
This is the time for the government to walk the talk on austerity measures and there is no better person to demonstrate that than the head of state.