Can Zimbabwe be pettier than this? March 31, 2014 in NewsDay Editorial
President Robert Mugabe will not attend the European Union — Africa Summit in Brussels, Belgium this week.
There are apparently two reasons that have guided Mugabe’s decision on this; one is personal, the other is based on pan-Africanist machismo.
The spin in the public media on why he is not attending has been sickening to say the least and has left the country with the label of pettiness that will stick for a long time to come.
At personal level he was riled by the EU’s refusal to grant his wife a visa to travel with him. The EU was insensitive in this, it can be argued. It is unfeeling for the EU to bar Grace Mugabe from accompanying her husband on such a long trip – long both in terms of distance and time.
In the past few years Mugabe has not undertaken a single trip abroad without his wife. On his numerous trips to the Far East where he seeks medical treatment she has always been by his side. This suggests she has become much more than just a spouse; she has become his personal nurse.
It is, therefore, unimaginable why the EU could fail to allow a 90-year-old man to travel with his wife who, in the circumstances, he needs in more ways than one — for spousal and medical support. It is obvious she has become his confidante as far has his health issues are concerned.
The second reason for his non-attendance of the summit is based on an abstraction namely that the EU has continued to play the big brother on Africa dictating the terms for inter-continental intercourse. In this instance, Mugabe and some in the African Union (AU) were miffed by the fact that the EU chose which African country or head of state or government should attend the summit, in exclusion of some which the AU have strong opinions about.
The African grouping had urged the EU to invite all African heads of state not on AU sanctions without exception. The AU also wanted Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir to attend despite him being on an International Criminal Court indictment.
The EU also barred Eritrea and the Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic, full members of the AU, while inviting a non-member Morocco and Egypt which is on AU sanctions.
These are reasonable grounds for the AU protest and Zimbabwean government spin doctors ought to have clung to these in their lobby to stop the EU-Africa summit even when their real reason was much more private and should have remained confidential.
The spin doctors should have lobbied behind the scenes for Grace Mugabe’s inclusion — and there are sound reasons why she should have been included — while publicly selling the AU argument on the continental delegation. To make Grace the issue was to trivialise their argument and to make Zimbabwe such a petty nation.
It is heartening that the rest of the continent were not swayed by the Zimbabwe government and the summit will go ahead.