PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe is beginning his visit to Japan after making an Easter stop in Singapore which has become a favourite chill-out spot and provider of much-needed medical attention.
The 92-year-old leader was invited by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to visit Japan from Sunday (27 March) to Thursday (31 March). Mugabe, and wife Grace, left Harare last Wednesday, four days before his expected arrival in Tokyo.
Zanu PF officials told NewZimbabwe.com that the veteran leader spent the Easter break in Singapore where he was also holed up after telling Zimbabweans he was travelling to India earlier this month.
Mugabe returned home without setting foot in India, prompting outrage from the opposition which accused him of wasting money at a time his government struggles to pay State workers.
Meanwhile, without disclosing when he arrived in Japan, state media reported Sunday that Mugabe would have a busy schedule during the three-day visit. He was expected to meet premier Shinzo Abe, Japanese government officials and local business organisations.
Premier Abe is reportedly keen to gain Mugabe’s support ahead of the next Tokyo International Conference on African Development scheduled to be held in Kenya in August. The upcoming TICAD meeting will be the first to be held in Africa.
A Japanese government source was recently quoted explaining that Mugabe would be “the best person to help Japan increase its influence in Africa” given his political reach.
Tokyo aims to pitch its infrastructure technology in the continent as well as counter growing Chinese influence.
Abe is also expected to discuss with the Zimbabwean leader, United Nations Security Council (UNSC) reforms – a subject dear to Mugabe’s heart.
Abe has appealed for African nations to back Japan’s bid for a permanent seat as part of reforms that will see an additional six permanent seats in the UNSC – four of them going to Japan, Germany, Indian and Brazil, and the other two reserved for African countries.
For his part, Mugabe is keen to press for greater economic cooperation as relations improve after hitting a low since 2000.
Back then Japan suspended technical cooperation, except for humanitarian aid, after Mugabe started his controversial land reforms, prompting the West to impose sanctions which brought the Zimbabwean economy to its knees.
During his last visit to Japan in 2015, Mugabe chided Tokyo for joining what he described as a bilateral dispute between Harare and former coloniser Britain which he blames for the sanctions.