Zimbabwe’s First Lady Auxillia Mnangagwa has come under scrutiny for reportedly spending a staggering US$109,000 on a one-way trip to Belarus. Mnangagwa, along with her twin sons, chartered a private Gulfstream G550 plane to Minsk, where she met with President Aleksandr Lukashenko to discuss government business.
According to NewsDay, the hourly rental rate for the Gulfstream G550 is around US$10,900, meaning that the ten-hour journey from Harare to Minsk cost US$109,000. This lavish expenditure has raised questions about the First Lady’s official capacity and whether taxpayers’ money was used to fund the trip.
Under Zimbabwean law, first ladies do not hold official government positions. It is unclear under what arrangement Mnangagwa was conducting business on behalf of the State. Mnangagwa’s meeting with President Lukashenko has also been shrouded in controversy, as she was pictured in the company of controversial businessman Aleksander Zingman, who was appointed the honorary consul for Zimbabwe by President Emmerson Mnangagwa in 2019.
Presidential spokesperson George Charamba has been evasive when asked about the First Lady’s visit, while Foreign Affairs ministry spokesperson Livit Mugejo referred all questions to Mnangagwa’s office. Mnangagwa’s decision not to travel with journalists from the State media has also been deemed unusual.
The exorbitant cost of the trip has drawn criticism from Zimbabweans, who are grappling with a worsening economic crisis that has led to fuel and food shortages. Mnangagwa’s spending has been described as “outrageous” and “tone-deaf” at a time when many Zimbabweans are struggling to make ends meet.
This latest controversy has raised concerns about the role of first ladies in Zimbabwe and whether they should be held accountable for their actions. It remains to be seen whether Mnangagwa will face any repercussions for her expensive trip to Belarus.