Photo: Cia Pak/UN
By Staff Reporter
ACTIVIST cleric Pastor Patrick Mugadza has petitioned the US embassy in Harare, challenging the decision to give President Robert Mugabe and his 'bloated delegation' visas to attend this year's United Nations (UN) general assembly.
The summit is scheduled for September 19 to 23 and Mugabe is reportedly travelling with a claimed 70-strong delegation, including his entire family.
Mugabe is banned from travelling to the US under sanctions imposed by Washington to punish rights abuses by his regime. He can, however, attend meetings of the UN in New York.
The 93-year-old is expected to leave Friday for the 2017 UN general assembly.
Reports quoting diplomatic sources this week claimed that the US embassy queried the inclusion of Mugabe's wife, Grace, their daughter Bona and grandson Simbanashe.
The delegation also reportedly includes Mugabe's son Bellarmine Chatunga and step-son Russell Goreraza. Government reportedly gives each delegation member $1,500 per day in spending allowances.
In his petition to the US Harare embassy Wednesday, Pastor Mugadza said the granting of visas to Mugabe and his family is a slap in the face for suffering Zimbabweans.
"We have orphans and widows who have nothing to put on the table, and teens who have been pushed into prostitution because of the difficult situation they find themselves in because of the Mugabe regime," said Mugadza.
"This move you have taken will result in the death of people who cannot afford to buy medication while you have given visas to these heartless people to go and do shopping in New York."
The cleric, who has been campaigning for the 93-year-old to step down, said the US government should cancel 50 of the visas issued to Mugabe's team.
"We thought you would stand with us as a suffering nation but we have realized that you are not on the side of the suffering. Having said that, we demand that you cut the number to 20 looters or else we are going to be occupying your embassy soon," he said.
The cleric was supported by the Welshmen Ncube-led MDC party which said Mugabe's entourage was abnormal in a struggling economy.
"It is a heart stopper to learn that the 10-day trip will see each member of the delegation gobble over US$15 000 - at a time when the state media reports that the cost of living has gone up again by 0.52 per cent. Only a few relevant government officials are adequate for the summit," Kurauone Chihwayi, the MDC spokesperson, said in a statement.
"It is a no-brainer that since the First family is barred from travelling to Europe on personal business, they see no shame in using important government trips such as these for vacation purposes," Chihwayi said.
He added: "Since the beginning of the year we have witnessed President Mugabe's foreign trips taking up millions of dollars in tax-payers' money while yielding absolutely no tangible benefits for the ordinary Zimbabwean."
Zimbabwe: Activist Cleric Slams U.S. Embassy Over Mugabe Visas
AllAfrica News: Latest – [New Zimbabwe] ACTIVIST cleric Pastor Patrick Mugadza has petitioned the US embassy in Harare, challenging the decision to give President Robert Mugabe and his ‘bloated delegation’ visas to attend this year’s United Nations (UN) general assembly.
(c) AllAfrica News: Latest – Read entire story here.