Mugabe, Grace arrive for independence celebrations

2015-04-18 13:11
President Robert Mugabe. (File: AFP)

President Robert Mugabe. (File: AFP)

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Harare - President Robert Mugabe arrived on Saturday at a wet sports stadium in Harare for Zimbabwe's 35th anniversary of independence celebrations, which have been overshadowed by xenophobic attacks in South Africa.

Wearing a suit and a green and gold presidential sash, Mugabe, 91, walked briskly under an umbrella to a podium in the National Sports Stadium accompanied by his wife Grace.

An outbreak of xenophobic violence in and around Durban and Johannesburg has outraged Zimbabweans at home, and forced the repatriation of at least 1 500 Zimbabwean migrants, beginning this weekend.

Two Zimbabweans are believed to have been killed.

Many are waiting to see if Mugabe, who is currently head of the African Union and the regional SADC grouping, will say something about the violence in his Independence Day speech.

Opposition leaders from Zimbabwe said on Friday that Mugabe's ruling Zanu-PF party had "betrayed the values and essence of the liberation struggle" which was waged against white minority rule in what was then Rhodesia in the 1970s.

"Did we fight for the freedom to flee our country to become victims of xenophobic attacks in neighbouring countries?" a joint statement from Movement for Democratic Change leader Morgan Tsvangirai, Simba Makoni, the head of Mavambo-Kusile-Dawn and two leaders of smaller opposition parties said. Mugabe has been in power since independence in 1980.

Ahead of Saturday's celebrations, the authorities tried to rally feel-good sentiment under the hashtag #1980sofarsogood - but it was savaged by many critics.

Zimbabweans took to social media from early Saturday to celebrate or reflect on independence.

Twitter user @sbsebele said: "I know what day it is, can't celebrate."

But prominent media entrepreneur Nigel Mugamu tweeted: "Happy Independence Zimbabwe. Grateful to those who died for us to be where we are today. Economic freedom is the next frontier".

Read more on:    robert mugabe  |  grace mugabe  |  zimbabwe  |  xenophobia  |  southern africa

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