While the world denounces and shuns Mr Robert Mugabe, Zimbabwe’s dictator, Singapore extends a friendly arm. It has been reported that from 5 to 8 August 2002, President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe made a private visit to Singapore. He called on Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong during his visit.
And while he was here, he indulged in a shopping spree…
By Lloyd Mudiwa
REPORTS of President Mugabe’s alleged lavish Christmas spending in Singapore have surfaced barely days after a South African weekly newspaper published a story of his chief spin doctor Jonathan Moyo’s alleged shopping spree while on holiday in that country.
During his leave recently, Mugabe visited Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore, where he reportedly shopped lavishly, while back home more than half the population faces starvation, partly because of his economic policies.
The President has repeatedly vowed that his government would not let anyone die of hunger.
The Sunday Tribune, a Durban newspaper, in a story on Sunday with the headline Mugabe goes on a Singapore shopping blitz, said the 78-year-old leader had outdone Moyo, his Minister of Information and Publicity.
Shami Harichunder, the acting editor of The Sunday Tribune, yesterday said: “We stand by our report which we believe contains credible sources.”
George Charamba, the permanent secretary in the Department of Information and Publicity, was continually said to be in a meeting last night when comment was sought from him.
“When it comes to lavish Christmas spending, Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe is king,” reads part of The Sunday Tribune’s story.
“Mugabe has outdone his big-spending spin doctor Jonathan Moyo by flying to Singapore to indulge in a huge shopping spree of his own, while back home millions of his countrymen face starvation, partly because of Mugabe’s failed policies.”
Mugabe reportedly went to even greater lengths to stock up on expensive goods for himself and beat the shortages caused by the Zimbabwean economy’s state of near-paralysis.
Most basic commodities such as fuel, sugar, bread, cooking oil and maize-meal have virtually run out in the shops with queues for these items being the order of the day. Prices for the few available goods have been propelled upwards by an inflation rate of more than 175 percent.
Singapore is south-east Asia’s premier shopping destination, with thousands of shops selling the best the world’s manufacturers have to offer.
The Tribune reported that Mugabe stocked up with 15 trolley-loads, including high-tech electronic goods.
Mugabe and his Zanu PF party’s inner circle are banned from entering the European Union and the United States under sanctions imposed against their human rights violations.
But Mugabe, The Sunday Tribune wrote, was spotted last week in business class on a flight from Singapore to Johannesburg by Greg Mills, national director of the South African Institute of International Affairs.
The paper says Mills, who had been on a working visit to the Far East, was checking in at Changi Airport in Singapore when he was amazed to see the 15 trolley-loads of goods addressed to Mugabe’s official residence in Harare.
The boxes were sealed so Mills could not see what they contained. However, some had labels of high-tech electronic products.
“Just before take-off, Mugabe, his wife the First Lady Grace Mugabe and eight other members of their entourage stepped on board and he sat directly behind me,” Mills said. “With what is going on in his country, the rest of the business class passengers were stunned at his presence.”
Mills said aside from the shopping spree, the 10 business class seats would have cost at least US$30 000 (about Z$1 650 000 at the official exchange rate but Z$42 million on the parallel market).
“One is scandalised by his taking a holiday in the East and indulging in a shopping crusade with so many people starving at home because of his policies,” Mills said.
Moyo was unrepentant when details of his spending spree in Johannesburg were reported.
He caused a diplomatic row between Zimbabwe and South Africa, when he described South Africans as “filthy and recklessly uncouth” after his shopping binge was published by a South African newspaper, The Sunday Times, on 12 January.