Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe on Monday flew to Algeria for a state visit amid a growing chorus for him to cut down on his now frequent foreign travels.
Mugabe left Harare just a day after he returned from Namibia where he attended the inauguration of new President Hage Geingob.
I am sure he has clocked more flying hours than the average commercial pilot at any airline in the world
He had spent just two days at home prior to his Namibian excursion after he spent over a week in Japan and Singapore.
Foreign Affairs permanent secretary Ambassador Joey Bimha justified Mugabe’s trip to Algeria saying Harare and Algiers had a long history of co-operation in various fields including economic, political and education sectors.
“This state visit is in view of the strong political relations that we have with Algeria,” Bimha told state media.
“The economic co-operation needs to be enhanced by identifying other areas of working together and it is hoped that the state visit will give us an opportunity to enhance the economic co-operation.”
However, opposition parties say the 91 year-old leader’s frequent trips are draining the poor country’s fiscus.
The largest oppistion party – the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) – mocked Mugabe for his travels, which it said were coming at a great expense to the economy.
“I am sure he has clocked more flying hours than the average commercial pilot at any airline in the world,” said MDC spokesperson Obert Gutu.
He said Mugabe is completely oblivious to the mounting economic problems at home.
Jacob Mafume, a spokesperson of an influential MDC faction said Mugabe was now engaging in ‘presidential tourism.’
“If we had known that when he campaigned to be president all he wanted was to travel … we could have put it in his retirement package,” Mafume said.
Mugabe spent almost two months outside the country after he left for the Far East in December for his annual holiday.
He said he delayed returning home because his wife had undergone an operation to remove an appendix.
His wife has not been seen in public for quite some time, sparking speculation that she is struggling to recover.
However, Mugabe is known to receive regular treatment in Singapore for eye problems and alleged prostate cancer.
The veteran ruler always travels with a large entourage and opposition parties say this is a serious burden on the tax payer.