President Mugabe has abandoned a controversial cultural festival in India amid protests from local people claiming that delegates will pollute the local environment.
Mr. Mugabe’s spokesperson, George Charamba, says the president’s trip was cut short due to security concerns.
But Zimbabweans are not buying this saying they are shocked by the Mr. Mugabe’s visit to India when other world leaders appear to have stayed away from the World Culture Festival organized by a local entity - Sri Sri Ravi Shankar of Art of Living.
The president decided to stop attending the event when he was already in that country and according to presidential spokesperson, George Charamba, this move was necessitated by security concerns.
In a statement, Charamba said, “The cancellation follows communication from organisers of the festival acknowledging substantial inadequacies in protocol and security arrangements around the event. A number of leaders slotted for participation, including those from the host country, have also withdrawn their participation. The president is expected home in a couple of days.”
Indian Prime Minister Pranab Mukherjee boycotted the event following concerns by environmentalists that the delegates were expected to pollute the local environment.
In an informal street survey, Zimbabweans expressed anger over the president’s move to attend the event when other nations had sent ministers and low key delegates to New Delhi for the festival.
Harare resident, Value Dick, said she was shocked by the waste of state resources at a time the country’s economy continues to nosedive.
“They are wasting resources generated by the taxpayer thus increasing poverty yet at the same time the government talks about eradicating poverty. The government is failing to take responsibility.”
Equally furious was Samantha Munyenyiwa, who pointed out that the president’s withdrawal from the event showed lack of proper planning in the office of the president.
“This shows lack of planning of the trip itself and a waste of resources. It also shows that the president himself was ignorant of the event and its depth. He decided to go and find out and when he saw that the Indian leader had aborted (attending the event) he also decided to abort. He was acting like he was being blown by the wind. He should have properly planned and not just taken off.”
Mr. Mugabe, according to the independent Newsday newspaper, left for the event without Rural Development, Preservation and Promotion of Culture and Heritage Minister Abednico Ncube.
Another Harare resident, Samson Wafawarova, said he was surprised that President Mugabe would fly to India for a cultural event instead of saving funds for buying maize for about three million Zimbabweans facing hunger due to the El Nino-induced drought.
“The president just flew away to India leaving the responsible minister back home. What it means to Zimbabwe is that the president is only interested in squandering the resources of the nation. The minister responsible was left because of factional wars so to me the president was just out there for a shopping spree,” said Wafawarova.
Charamba was not available for comment as his mobile phone was not taking incoming calls. Mr. Mugabe was scheduled to be the guest of honour at the event, which is a celebration of peace in multiculturalism.
According to Sky Scanner, a travelling agent website, the cheapest flight to India from Zimbabwe costs about 2,000 pounds when using public flights.
Some opposition parties have complained aboutMr. Mugabe's travelling expenses with reports that in 2015 he spent about $33 million in foreign trips.
Twitter was on fire Thursday with some Zimbabweans questioning why the head of state made the trip even without Ncube.
Mr. Mugabe was supposed to fly to Singapore from India but it is not clear whether he is still to proceed to Singapore.