HARARE - President Robert Mugabe is heading back to the Far East — and specifically to Japan — as the country’s economy and his Zanu PF party continue to implode.
The trip, based on the need to boost bilateral investment and economic cooperation deals, comes as the ‘high-riding’ nonagenarian has just taken a savage political beating over his trip to India for a low-key cultural event recently.
Mugabe, who maintains a punishing global schedule for a 92-year-old, is expected to hold talks with Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe and Emperor Akihito.
“...the president and his spouse will make a State call on their majesties the emperor and empress of Japan, and their majesties the emperor and empress will host a court luncheon (for) the president and his spouse,” the Japanese Embassy said in a statement.
“The government of Japan sincerely welcomes the visit...and hopes that this visit will further strengthen the friendly relations between Japan, and the Republic of Zimbabwe.”
Born in 1933, Akihito was heir to Emperor Hirohito, in whose name Japan fought World War Two. His heir is Crown Prince Naruhito, age 56.
Akihito was also the first royal heir to marry a commoner, Empress Michiko, now 81, and his efforts to draw the imperial family closer to the people in image, if not in fact, played into a carefully crafted picture of a “middle-class monarchy” that has helped shield it from the harsh criticism suffered by flashier royals abroad.
In his last trip to Tokyo, Mugabe’s inclusion of his daughter Bona in official proceedings created a storm, which critics said was based on her presence given that she is not a State official.
Still, the Zanu PF leader’s frequent travels have angered many Zimbabweans for their economic impact on the country and the New Delhi trip was flayed as one of those excursions to waste taxpayers’ money, political opponents said.
Apart from rounding up on him over the botched trip, observers called on the increasingly frail nonagenarian to quit for his own good, his family and the nation.
In particular, Zimbabweans are miffed about the cost of these trips and where the globetrotting Mugabe often travels with tens of hangers on and State officials.
With a penchant for foreign travel, the 92-year-old leader’s recent trip have, however, not been that rosy and smooth-sailing after a series of health, and age-linked gaffes, and challenges.
As it is, Mugabe was forced to abandon his much-criticised junket to India, which was even snubbed by supposed host Pranab Mukherjee and several other world leaders.