Mr. Mugabe’s annual holidays are one of the unusual aspects of the rhythms of political life in Harare, the capital of this southern African nation. Every year, from mid-December through the end of January, Mr. Mugabe, who has ruled Zimbabwe for 37 years with a tight grip, seemingly releases it. He vanishes in Asia, going off grid, becoming at times unreachable to his own deputies.
“When Mugabe goes on holiday, he goes on holiday with the state,” said Pedzisai Ruhanya, a political analyst and the director of the Zimbabwe Democracy Institute, a research group. “Mugabe’s behavior is inconsistent with practices in other countries, with general state practices. This is kind of strange.”
This time, Mr. Mugabe left for Asia immediately after his party’s annual conference in mid-December, which was dominated by his wife, Grace Mugabe, 51. Mr. Mugabe, the world’s oldest head of state, who will be 93 in February, slept through most of the conference but was selected as his party’s candidate in next year’s presidential election.
Tendai Biti, an opposition leader who served as finance minister in a coalition government from 2009 to 2013, said that Mr. Mugabe’s annual holidays have long been a drain on Zimbabwe’s finances. In a system established before independence, government officials traveling overseas are given hard currency, usually American dollars, upon authorization from the Finance Ministry, Mr. Biti said.
During Mr. Biti’s tenure, Mr. Mugabe typically asked for $3 million for his annual holidays, and Mr. Biti said he authorized from $800,000 to $1.2 million.
“The money comes as cash,” Mr. Biti said. “But whether they put it in suitcases or whatever, I don’t know. That was not my job.”
Unspent money — from Mr. Mugabe’s annual holidays or his frequent trips outside Zimbabwe — is not returned to the state.
“It has become a vehicle for looting,” Mr. Biti said.
Donald Trump’s luxury resort in Florida is making the most of his leap into the White House by doubling its initiation fee to $200,000, it was reported Wednesday.
The price hike at Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach took effect on Jan. 1, less than two months after Trump’s defeat of Hillary Clinton, according to CNBC.
A Reuters report said the increase occurred in two phases — from $100,000 to $150,000 in June, and then to $200,000 this month.
The timing raised red flags for a government watchdog.
“It sure looks like he’s using the presidency to line his pockets,” said Jordan Libowitz of the Center for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, DC.
One source told The Post the steep fee hasn’t dissuaded the Trump faithful or those just eager to hobnob with the president.
An orange version of Robert Mugabe is now president of the United States.