PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe has been forced to use a commercial charter for his recent foreign trips, and aides have ensured the ultimate in airborne luxury for the reportedly ailing 93-year-old.
Mugabe ignores criticism of his endless foreign travel which cost treasury millions of dollars every year, expenditure the economically crippled country can ill-afford, opposition rivals argue.
Information from the finance ministry shows that Mugabe made at least 20 trips abroad, spending $36 million in the first 10 months of 2016, up from $33 million the previous year.
In contrast, the country’s under-funded 300-member parliament was forced to make do with a budget of $30 million for the entire year with legislators unable to get their allowances.
The presidency dismisses criticism of Mugabe's travels, quipping that foreign policy is not cheap.
Last month the globe-trotting Zimbabwean leader travelled to South Africa for an economic summit after which he was off to Singapore for his meds before heading to Mexico for a UN disaster conference.
He was forced to use a commercial charter for the Singapore and Mexico trips after his usual Air Zimbabwe aircraft was grounded, having been banned from European skies after failing safety tests.
The presidency hired the same aircraft in March for the veteran leader’s trips to Singapore and Ghana at a cost of more than US$1mln according to reports from local media.
A promotional video from the company which provided the charter suggests that Mugabe would not have missed the luxuries of his Harare ‘Blue Roof’ mansion while criss-crossing the globe.
The company says its VIP plane which is used by heads of state includes a private bedroom with en suite bathroom, office, dining and living room, plus room for entourage and staff.