PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe has put government business on hold as his foreign trips continue to take a toll on Cabinet meetings where the Executive is supposed to meet every Tuesday to brainstorm on the mounting economic and social challenges facing the country.
A Zanu PF politburo member and top government official said that Cabinet last had its Tuesday meetings on January 27 2015 after a 45-day break as Mugabe was on his annual holiday with his family in the Far East.
The official said the President’s endless trips since then have left government on virtual autopilot with Cabinet ministers in a quandary doing the least without Mugabe’s guidance.
Other Zanu PF insiders and political analysts said Mugabe’s globetrotting had crippled government work as Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa, who is often left as Acting President, was unable to make crucial decisions in the absence of his principal.
“Due to divisions in Zanu PF, Mnangagwa will not make key decisions without risking being accused of trying to topple Mugabe. The country is on autopilot,” the Zanu PF insider, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said.
The insider said when Mugabe was not in the country, Mnangagwa has to brief State House principal director Dzapasi Innocent Tizora, who will in turn contact Mugabe for direction.
Whatever Mugabe says through Tizora was what Mnangagwa would implement, the source added.
“Mnangagwa cannot chair Cabinet, which means his position is ceremonial. He doesn’t have the power. Furthermore, Mnangagwa himself is hamstrung by the succession wars in the party. He cannot make key decisions without consulting Mugabe for fear of being accused of trying to topple his boss,” another top Zanu PF official said.
It is understood that Cabinet has not met for eight consecutive weeks as Mugabe’s foreign junkets continued to keep him away from home.
This was despite the fact that most of the foreign trips — some for medical check-ups, regional, continental and international engagements — continued to draw large sums of money in travel and subsistence allowances from the depleted national purse.
Already, the trips have gobbled $10 million since January.
Mugabe solely chairs Cabinet meetings although he regularly delegates his deputies to lead proceedings only when discussing less important issues.
Political analyst Ernest Mudzengi expressed concern that critical national decisions had been put on hold because of Mugabe’s continuous absence.
“Important decisions on the economy, investments and so on are not made when Mugabe is not around, and it is unfortunate, especially when the country is facing serious economic challenges,” Mudzengi said.
Government has since last year been struggling to meet basic obligations like paying civil servants’ salaries on stipulated dates, but the Executive has not been meeting to find ways of addressing the prevailing and worsening challenges.
Mugabe flew to Tanzania on Saturday hardly 24 hours after his return from Algeria.
From Arusha, the Zanu PF leader proceeded to Ethiopia for the 18th Summit of the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa which runs until today.
Mugabe, who is Sadc and African Union chairperson, has recently spent more time flying than at home addressing domestic problems.
Since he came back from his annual holiday on January 21, Mugabe has travelled to Ethiopia, South Africa, Singapore, Japan, Namibia, Algeria, Tanzania and Zambia.
The 91-year-old leader was also set to fly to South Africa again next week, Ethiopia and India.
Another analyst, Alexander Rusero, said Mugabe’s foreign trips, although he would be on government work, would mean back home there would be no movement in the party and government.
“Without Mugabe, the politburo, which guides government work, will not sit and there will be no movement in the country. Remember, Zanu PF is bigger than government and as long as he would not be around, government work suffers,” Rusero said.
“Since he would be on government work on those trips, there is need to balance between the time he is in the country and he is out of the country. Only the courts function when Mugabe is not around.”
Media and democracy scholar Redzisai Ruhanya said: “The travelling of the President comes with a huge pay cheque.”