The impoverished government of Zimbabwe reportedly chartered a medical flight to Singapore on Sunday for deposed dictator Robert Mugabe, the kleptocrat and crackpot socialist responsible for impoverishing the country. Meanwhile, Zimbabweans are told their government lacks the funds to deal with an outbreak of cholera.
According to a report in New Zimbabwe, both Robert Mugabe and his wife Grace – who are 95 and 53 years old, respectively – have made several trips to Singapore for treatment. Grace is said to be suffering complications from a 2015 appendectomy, while Robert is rumored to be battling prostate cancer.
State-funded luxury travel arrangements for the Mugabes have caused “some public consternation,” as the newspaper sardonically puts it, because they are millionaires many times over. Grace Mugabe, in particular, is loathed by much of the public for her expensive tastes and habit of looting the Zimbabwean treasury to finance them.
And yet Mugabe’s successor President Emmerson Mnangagwa has not only provided private jets for their medical trips but he also reportedly chartered a top-shelf Gulfstream 650 jet from Qatar to fly Grace Mugabe home from Singapore to Zimbabwe when her mother died two weeks ago.
“Not many presidents would do that. Especially if she had tried to poison you and you had been forced to flee your country hotly pursued by a hit squad with orders to kill you,” activist group Zimbabwe Vigil snarked, referring to then-Vice President Mnangagwa’s hasty departure from Zimbabwe in the fading days of the Mugabe regime after Grace allegedly attempted to poison his ice cream.
The Mnangagwa administration disputed the charges of profligacy by contending the plane Grace Mugabe flew on had already been chartered by “a group of business people” who kindly allowed the former dictator’s wife to fly with them. Later the government modified this story to say a “local business tycoon with vast interests in energy, mining, and agriculture who is close to Mnangagwa” paid the half-million-dollar tab for Grace Mugabe’s flight home from Singapore.
Zimbabweans are even more angry about the Mugabe flights because the government has been claiming it lacks the funding to deal with a cholera outbreak. Zimbabwe’s finance minister actually asked for donations to finance cholera treatments in the suburbs of Harare, the capital city.
“How do we charter a plane and yet crowdfund for a cholera epidemic?” asked one Zimbabwean on social media.
“There are no words to describe how inappropriate this is in the midst of a cholera crisis,” said another, while a third acidly noted Mugabe’s health appears to be “a bigger priority for our broke government” than dealing with a massive outbreak of disease.
Some Zimbabweans wondered why any sort of public financing, or even charity from a sympathetic business tycoon, would be needed when the Mugabes received such an incredibly generous retirement package. One of the benefits reportedly provided to the departing dictator was free first-class air travel for life, but even first-class seats on a commercial airliner apparently were not good enough.
Those benefits were on top of a net worth for Robert Mugabe that was once estimated to exceed a billion dollars by U.S. officials. Grace Mugabe’s literally diamond-studded tastes were so lavish she became known as “Gucci Grace” and “The First Shopper” to frustrated citizens in her hardscrabble nation.
Details of the Mugabe financial empire are hard to come by, but they are said to own property and luxury goods around the world and have vast sums of money salted away in various numbered accounts. One of the indelible images of the late Mugabe reign involved their youngest son boasting of his $60,000 wristwatch on social media and pouring a $400 bottle of champagne over the timepiece.