Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe is expected to leave for New York on Saturday to attend the 65th session of the United Nations General Assembly.
The president, who will be accompanied by first lady Grace Mugabe and a large number of senior government officials estimated at over 70, is expected to join other world leaders at the UN summit.
Finance Minister Tendai Biti has previoulsy threatened to crackdown on spendthrift foreign travels that gobbled US$30 million in six months when the nation is struggling to raise funds.
Sources in the foreign affairs ministry told VOA that senior pilots were asked to fly the president to the UN since the national airline’s pilots are on strike.
Harare had considered chartering a South African airways plane to ferry the president to New York, sources say. The annual UN session opens Wednesday next week and runs until Septermber 30.
Topics to be discussed include climate change, development and counter-terrorism strategies. But on the sidelines of the UN summit, president Mugabe, backed by Pretoria, is expected to lobby for the removal of targeted sanctions imposed on him and 200 members of his inner circle.
The United States and European Union imposed a travel ban on Mr Mugabe following the disputed 2002 presidential elections. He is only allowed to attend UN meetings.
Briefing the media Thursday in Pretoria, South African International relations and cooperation minister, Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, said South Africa will ask the West to remove the so-called targeted sanctions.
"Whenever weget an opportunity, we will be lobbying for the removal of these restrictions against certain individuals or institutions in Zimbabwe, because we think it's not necesarily helping in making sure Zimbabwe moves forward," she said.
Political analyst Trevor Maisiri says Mr Mugabe’s 70 member entourage is just too big for a poor nation.