ZIMBABWE – There has been strong criticism of Robert Mugabe’s presence at the World Energy Forum taking place in Dubai this week, with Zimbabweans and some observers pointing to his government’s failure to provide adequate electricity for his own country.
Mugabe arrived in Dubai Tuesday for this gathering of world leaders and private institutions with links to the United Nations. The leaders are due to discuss crucial issues affecting the energy industry worldwide and plot the way forward in sustainable economic and social development.
The Energy Minister, Elton Mangoma of the MDC-T, was not part of the delegation. According to the state run ZTV news site, Mugabe was accompanied by his wife Grace and Foreign Affairs Minister Simbarashe Mumbengegwi.
The First Ladies will participate in their own “summit” for sustainable development, which runs at the same time as the Energy Forum.
In addition to criticism for his government’s failure to produce enough power, Mugabe is one of the government officials who were earlier this year exposed as defaulting on their power bills. Mugabe and his wife were listed as owing over US$300,000 to the utility company as of December 2011.
This visit to Dubai is just another one of Mugabe’s extremely expensive overseas trips. In June he took a delegation of 92 cronies to Brazil for a conference on sustainable development, costing the country more than $7 million.
Sustainable development involves the practical use of scarce resources, which Mugabe and ZANU PF have been accused of ignoring through their so-called land reform and indigenization policies. Conservancies have been invaded by war vets and hunting licenses are being issued to people with no knowledge of wildlife preservation. Precious hardwood timbers are being cut down for firewood.
Zimbabweans have come to regard Mugabe’s travels as “shopping trips”, and Finance Minister Tendai Biti has warned of the extravagant amounts spent on travel by senior officials. Last year $45.5 million was blown on foreign trips by officials, averaging about $4 million per month.