'Don't invite Mugabe to Zuma's inauguration'

2009-04-30 00:00

Cape Town - Civil rights initiative AfriForum has made an urgent appeal to the government not to receive Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe as guest at the presidential inauguration of Jacob Zuma on May 9.

Afri-Forum says Mugabe's presence at the ceremony will send a "dangerously wrong message" to the world.

In a statement, AfriForum said the SA government's commitment to the protection and promotion of human rights is already being questioned after events such as the decision in 2007 to oppose the UN security council's resolution against human rights violations in Myanmar, and more recently the refusal of a visa for the Dalai Lama.

"To welcome Mugabe, while a world-renowned advocate of peace and human rights such as the Dalai Lama is specifically not welcome, will do immeasurable damage to South Africa's international reputation," said Alana Bailey, deputy CEO of AfriForum.

"It does not help that South Africa has a Bill of Human Rights in its Constitution, while the acts of government show disrespect for these principles," she said.

Bailey referred to media reports that presidents Omar el-Bashir of Sudan and Andry Rajoelina of Madagascar will not be at the inauguration - El-Bashir because of a warrant for his arrest and Rajoelina because South Africa does not recognise his government.

"If Mugabe were also to be omitted from the guest list, it would be symbolic of a new dawn for the protection and promotion of human rights by the South African government."

Meanwhile, the Democratic Alliance has voiced concern over the R75 million costs of the inauguration.

DA Safety and Security spokeswoman Dianne Kohler-Barnard said that while the DA recognises the need to celebrate the inauguration of a new president, the R75-million cost is cause for concern.

"This amount also reportedly excludes security costs for the event, and will no doubt come across as extravagant and inappropriate in the face of enormous challenges which the government has not been able to address, a global economic meltdown, and Mr Zuma's own campaign commitment to a more austere approach to governance," Kohler-Barnard said.

Who is coming?

PRETORIA - Twenty-one heads of state have so far confirmed they will be attending ANC leader Jacob Zuma's inauguration - but not U.S. President Barack Obama.

Foreign Affairs director-general Ayanda Ntsaluba told the media that 20 other countries would be represented mostly by their foreign ministers and special envoys. - Sapa.

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