via Zim bigger than Grace – DailyNews Live by Conrad Nyamutata 1 APRIL 2014
It seems confirmed that President Robert Mugabe is going to boycott the EU-Africa summit set for Brussels, Belgium.
Apparently, Mugabe is taking a “principled” stance because some African countries have been excluded from the meeting.
South African President Jacob Zuma has also pointed out that the EU should not decide on the composition of the African delegation. “I thought the AU and EU are equal organisations representing two continents but there is not a single one of them who must decide for others.”
But the Europeans have been “clever” enough to couch the meeting as the EU-Africa, and not the EU-AU summit. As such, the EU has given itself latitude to invite individual African countries of its choice, not necessarily all members of the AU.
It did not invite Eritrea and the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic, both members of the AU, for unexplained reasons. But the major reason for Mugabe’s “principled” stance, is the exclusion of his wife, Grace. While Mugabe has been invited, the First Lady has been denied a visa. “What God has put together the EU is trying to separate,” said Mugabe’s spokesperson George Charamba. “Do they expect the president to respect the EU and disrespect his own marriage?”
The EU Ambassador to Zimbabwe Aldo Dell’Ariccia has stated that spouses have no role at the summit and Grace has no business at the meeting.
It is all farcical. The issuance of a one-off visa to Grace would not prejudice the EU.
Nonetheless, the suggestion that Grace’s exclusion and Mugabe’s absence for two or three days amounts to an affront to the president’s marriage should be taken for the melodramatic exaggeration that it is.
The summit is set for 2-3 April. The visa saga reduces a significant opportunity to remedy international relations to parochial and frivolous interests.
One of the priorities for Zimbabwe ought to re-engage with the international community after years of isolation.
The EU-Africa Summit is one opportunity towards rejoining the community of nations.
The summit provides Mugabe with a chance to put his case for Zimbabwe’s re-engagement. The benefits of re-engagement accrue to citizens through investment, jobs and so on.
By attending the summit, Mugabe will, therefore, be acting in the national interests.
The visa saga, thus, sacrifices these broader interests on the altar of overly-dramatised concerns.
It ought to be remembered that, as chief executive officer of this country, Mugabe would be going to Brussels to “work” — part of the mandate he was given, put aside the electoral controversy — unless he and his wife want to turn the visit into a holiday.
Ordinarily, CEOs do not have the pleasure of taking their wives on business trips; and if they do, the practice if often frowned upon. Such brief separations hardly result in marital breakdowns. Similarly, Grace has no business in Brussels.
But she can have “business” here for the days Mugabe will be away, that is, if the president decides to attend.
Early February, thousands of people were evacuated after torrential rains occasioned the partial collapse of the Tokwe-Mukorsi dam.
MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai, reportedly now planning a belated visit, also missed an opportunity to show an empathetic side his main opponent has failed to demonstrate other than declaring it a national disaster.
Grace can, for a day, swap the comforts of State House or Borrowdale for the none-visa-requiring Chingwizi.
First Ladies, touted as mothers of nations, should embody maternal and humanistic qualities often lost in the dust of the often-patriarchal cut-throat politics.
Grace was prepared to travel to places to offer goods to people during her husband’s campaign rallies before the July election.
To many, this was blatant vote-buying so she could secure another stint in the State House.
It becomes quite crass that she is now the subject of dispute over her travel to glitzy cities of Europe: now ensconced in the State House again, she can’t visit the less glamorous places like Chingwizi anymore.