Mugabe under fire over summit boycott

Cape Town – Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe has reportedly come under fire from opposition parties following reports that the veteran leader will boycott an EU-Africa summit in Brussels because his wife Grace was denied a visa to enter Europe.

According to The Telegraph, Mugabe has ordered the entire delegation from his country to stay at home and not attend the two-day meeting scheduled to kick off on Wednesday.

A report by News Day said opposition parties and civic society groups had reacted angrily to Mugabe's decision saying "it was wrong for Mugabe to deny the country representation at the summit over personal issues".

The telegraph quoted a Harare businessman as saying that Mugabe's boycott was not in the interests of the country’s fragile economy.

He said it was "madness" for the government to boycott, adding that the since the country’s relations with the EU were improving, the summit could have "brought some EU funds into the economy".

The summit will bring together representatives of 90 nations from both continents, including 65 heads of state and government.

Restrictive measures

EU ambassador to Zimbabwe Aldo Dell'Ariccia last week maintained that only those with a role to play in meetings at the summit had been invited.

Dell'Ariccia said the programmes of the forthcoming summit did not have any role for spouses.

Dell'Ariccia said since Mugabe's wife was under restrictive measures, the host country (Belgium) had to seek a green light for her to attend.

Mugabe and his wife are under an EU travel ban imposed in 2002, after a government crackdown on the opposition and the eviction of white farmers from agricultural land.

The EU had waived the visa ban on Mugabe, who is the vice-chairperson of the AU, saying it was not bound by the ban when hosting large international conferences.

The summit has been described as "the highest level of political dialogue between the two continents".
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