APPARENTLY fearing for his life, President Robert Mugabe last week rejected the use of Sadc vehicles during the just-ended 33rd Sadc heads of state and government summit held in Lilongwe, Malawi, citing security reasons, the Zimbabwe Independent can reveal.
ELIAS MAMBO recently in Malawi
Sources said Mugabe was paranoid and did not want to accept a Sadc-hired Mercedes Benz because most European countries enjoy good relations with Malawi so chances of an ambush by locally based agents were high.
Upon his arrival at Kamuzu International Airport on Friday evening, Mugabe blasted the West for refusing to accept his victory and opted to use his official Zim 1 limousine sent to Malawi by road, arriving a day before the summit.
Sources said Mugabe, who is already heavily guarded, has escalated his security after the July 31 polls were disputed amid allegations of rigging and irregularities which the MDC-T failed to prove in court arguing lack of supply of crucial material from the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission it needed to prove its allegations.
“Mugabe does not want to risk his safety, especially after the controversy surrounding the elections,” the source said. “The West were in the forefront in refusing to accept the elections results and this raises security concerns especially when one is out of his country.”
Malawi enjoys cordial relations with the West since President Joyce Banda took over from the late Bingu Wa Mutharika making Mugabe feel insecure because of their presence.
A senior Malawian government official said Banda ordered that all ministerial vehicles (Mercedes-Benzes) be rented to the regional body for heads of states while fleet vehicles in the ministries were for other duties.
The Malawi government also flighted an advertisement for ordinary people with vehicles in excellent condition to apply and supply them for use by the regional bloc’s delegates.
An outcry over the US$1,3 million used for hosting the Sadc summit was awash in the private media in Malawi with much of the budget going towards the hiring of vehicles.
Despite shock displayed by the Malawian officials, Presidential spokesperson George Charamba said there was no need for alarm as the president “always” used his official car for regional engagements.
“He has always been using his own car for regional engagements so there is nothing new here,” Charamba said.
On Thursday last week, three vehicles, two Toyota Hiluxes registration numbers ADB 3789 and ADB 3721 accompanied the Zim1 by road via Nyamapanda and Mwanza borders to Malawi.
A senior Sadc official said Mugabe’s move surprised all members of the regional grouping because all logistics were in place with security on high alert.
“Sadc leaders are still shocked that Mugabe brought his own official vehicle when all logistics were in place,” the official said.
“The issue has been worsened by the fact that he did not send any message to alert the organising team that he would not require the Sadc hired vehicle.”
Security aides were surprised at Kamuzu International Airport when Mugabe was led by his chief of protocol to his personal vehicle instead of the Sadc hired one.
“Security aides had to rush and label Mugabe’s vehicle to cover the Zim1 number plate.” the official said.
Mugabe took a swipe at the West for supporting the regime change agenda and for condemning the just-ended peaceful elections.
“The West wants to think for us and take decisions for us and give us direction,” Mugabe said.