via Mugabe aborts trip – NewsDay Zimbabwe July 14, 2015 by Richard Chidza
PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe has missed a major African Union (AU) conference in Ethiopia after he reportedly cancelled the trip at the last minute.
Mugabe returned home on Sunday night from the United Nations in New York instead of proceeding to Addis Ababa for the Third International Conference on Financing for Development (FFD3) that opened yesterday.
The reasons for the cancellation were not clear last night, but there were reports that the frequent foreign trips were taking a toll on the 91-year-old leader.
Mugabe has flown to Europe, Asia, the United Nations and across Africa more than 20 times since the beginning of the year and the government has in the past defended his travels, saying his post of AU chairman made them necessary.
The AU conference, that ends on Thursday — organised by the United Nations — was described as important by the continental body.
“The AU will be participating at the highest level, represented by the President of Zimbabwe, current chairperson of the Union, HE Robert Mugabe, and the chairperson of the AU Commission, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma,” the AU had said in statement ahead of the conference.
Dlamini-Zuma’s opening speech yesterday also referred to Mugabe in the salutations.
A Foreign Affairs ministry official confirmed that Mugabe had cancelled the trip to Ethiopia.
“He has cancelled, but we have not been given any reasons,” the official said.
“It is not the first trip he has cancelled. He was also scheduled to travel on the 10th, but he had to skip that as well because he was away at the UN.”
Acting Information minister Prisca Mupfumira said she did not know anything about the cancellation of the Ethiopian trip.
“How can you even ask me that? I do not keep his diary,” she said last night.
“I do not have his itinerary and know nothing about that (trip to Ethiopia).
“We received the President yesterday (Sunday) and I know there is a Cabinet meeting tomorrow (today).”
Mugabe’s spokesperson George Charamba was not reachable for comment.
Chief Secretary to the President and Cabinet, Misheck Sibanda, at the weekend had to inform ministers through State media that Cabinet would meet today. Cabinet traditionally sits on Tuesdays.
The main opposition MDC-T has criticised Mugabe’s frequent travels, saying they were draining the fiscus at a time the government was struggling to fund its operations.
Mugabe insists that he is healthy and has dismissed claims the regular trips he makes to Asia are for medical reasons.
This year, he has travelled for presidential inaugurations in Nigeria, Sudan and Zambia.
Mugabe has also attended independence celebrations in Mozambique.