Gulf between Mugabe, Tsvangirai exposed

2010-04-23 16:58

The visit by Iranian leader Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has muddied waters in Zimbabwe’s artificial political calm and exposed the real gulf of difference that exists between President Robert Mugabe and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai.

While Mugabe literally worshipped the Iranian leader, showering him with the highest possible honours and unprecedented security cordons, Tsvangirai conveniently slipped out of the country and his ministers simply stayed away from Ahmadinejad’s official opening of the Zimbabwe International Trade Fair (ZITF).

The Iranian President arrived at the Harare International Airport on board his official Islamic Republic of Iran plane marked EP-AJD.

Mugabe, who was accompanied by a huge entourage of officials and ministers from his Zanu PF party, was already at the airport – waiting for at least 20 minutes before Ahmadinejad’s plane landed.

There were moments of anxiety and some drama as Ahmadinejad was kept inside his plane, unable to disembark for approximately 10 minutes because the aircraft stairway could not be fitted properly.

Security personnel from Iran got involved in the corrective measures as employees from the National Handling Services at the airport fixed the problem.

A group of residents from the Islamic community in Zimbabwe was at hand to welcome their leader along with hand-picked members of the Apostolic Faith Church.

The Iranian leader was treated to a 21-gun salute and other full military honours that included inspecting a guard of honour and a fly past.

Visibly proud

Four fighter jets that had been whizzing over the airport airspace hours before the Iranian leader’s arrival continued to crisscross above him as he received his honours from a visibly awed and proud Mugabe.

The longest motorcade ever seen in Zimbabwe – more than 50 cars long – then ushered Ahmadinejad into the city, accompanied by low-flying military helicopters.

While Mugabe was having this pomp and fanfare, including a sumptuous dinner later at State House, Tsvangirai and his party were sulking – in fact swearing – somewhere.

“Choice of friends defines character, and inviting the Iranian strongman to an investment forum is like inviting a mosquito to cure malaria.

“Hobnobbing with dubious political leaders confirms stereotypes that we are a banana republic,” the MDC said in a scathing attack of Mugabe’s “unilateral” invitation of Ahmadinejad.

This afternoon after it had become apparent Tsvangirai and his officials would not attend the official opening of the Trade Fair, Zanu PF youths grouped in Harare and marched across the capital carrying placards denouncing Tsvangirai and literally calling for his head.

The MDC is still protesting against ANC Youth League president Julius Malema’s visit and his utterances about their party while he was in Zimbabwe and after he returned to South Africa. The party plans to hold demonstrations against him tomorrow.

Meanwhile, reports from Bulawayo said the Iranian leader’s appearance at the ZITF was largely snubbed by politicians, business and the ordinary Zimbabwean.

Civil organisations in Bulawayo had mobilised the ordinary people to boycott the Iranian’s address.

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