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Comment: Mugabe tirade derails reengagement

WHEN people bury their loved ones, they are expected to be humble and respectful to their guests. In typical African culture, those with a score to settle will wait for another day rather than spoil the sombre atmosphere with tirades that only serve to upset their guests.

President Mugabe at the weekend not only discarded the African norm of being civil to guests at a funeral but threw spanners in the works of the re-engagement exercise with the West. While Mugabe has previously poured scorn on the re-engagement exercise, claiming instead that Zimbabwe could turn to “friends in other parts of the world”, it is imperative that his handlers realise that the kind of contempt that he is exhibiting towards envoys of nations that Zimbabwe is looking to for its economic recovery could only worsen the situation.
It is precisely because of Zanu PF arrogance that Zimbabwe finds itself in a situation where it is going around the world with a begging bowl. Although Mugabe may be excited by the discovery of diamonds in Chiadzwa to the extent that he believes they alone can revive the country’s economy, he needs to be reminded that Zimbabwe is a small nation that needs the community of nations more than that community needs Zimbabwe.
President Mugabe cannot hope for the lifting of sanctions when he is going on the offensive against the same countries that Zimbabwe is supposed to be mending bridges with. Zimbabwe needs to strengthen trade ties with its traditional trading partners and this can only be achieved through constructive engagement.
The starting point should be courtesy from President Mugabe because it is these diplomats who influence the policies of their countries. Already US President Obama has indicated that he is not amused with the actions of the 86-year-old leader. Obama said on Tuesday that he was “heartbroken” over the situation in Zimbabwe and that “Mugabe was not serving his people well”.
It is high time that Mugabe and his cronies realise that they no longer represent the aspirations of ordinary Zimbabweans. Zimbabweans rejected them at the ballot, hence the inclusive government. When he speaks on behalf of Zimbabweans, he should exercise the same restraint that Zimbabweans have exercised under his rule where they have not taken any drastic action. It is about time that people stood up to Mugabe and pointed to the folly of his stubbornness as the Western diplomats did last weekend when they showed him their backs.
United States Ambassador Charles Ray has refused to apologise for leaving Heroes Acre in protest at Mugabe’s intemperate remarks at the burial of his sister where the envoy was told to “go to hell”.
The US is Zimbabwe’s biggest aid donor. Ray said he followed normal diplomatic protocol in attending the funeral of Mugabe’s sister Sabina, who died aged 80. But he said that when Mugabe began his invective, “we walked away as we were very disappointed in his conduct, so we have nothing to apologise for.”


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