President Robert Mugabe on Wednesday attended a meeting to combat Western “neocolonialism,” while Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai sought investment in Zimbabwe’s ailing economy from Western business leaders and international agencies.
The separate trips – the two even flew on separate flights – showed deep divisions in Zimbabwe’s power-sharing coalition government, forged last year as a compromise after disputed national elections in 2008. The leaders’ refusal to collaborate also bodes poorly for the success of the struggling coalition.
Mugabe flew Monday to Dar es Salaam, Tanzania’s economic hub, on Zimbabwe’s national airline for a summit of African liberation leaders who had fought for independence from colonial-era rule. The meeting aimed to find ways to combat the resurgence of Western imperialist threats to developing nations, as Zimbabwe’s state radio, which is controlled by Mugabe’s party, reported Tuesday.
Tsvangirai flew separately for a meeting of the World Economic Forum on Africa, a Western-backed conference on investment and development aid, his office said.
Rugare Gumbo, a spokesman for Mugabe’s party, said Mugabe will not cross town from the “liberators summit” to visit the economic forum meeting.
“The summit is very important to us as a liberation movement,” he said. “It will enable our party to inform our other comrades on the problems of sanctions we are facing from the Western countries.”
Mugabe blames Western economic sanctions for the nation’s economic meltdown that began after he ordered the often violent seizures of thousands of white-owned commercial farms in 2000, disrupting the agriculture-based economy in the former regional breadbasket now facing acute food shortages.
Tsvangirai’s party opposed that programme and a new one to hand over 51 percent control of mostly white-owned businesses to blacks, saying they scared off much-needed investment, which they see as a priority for Zimbabwe’s ailing economy.
Tsvangirai’s views have won him Western support, which is unlikely to help him at home. He leaves for the U.S. on Saturday to receive an award from former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright for “tireless efforts to restore democracy, human rights and the rule of law to Zimbabwe,” according to the citation of the U.S. National Democratic Institute.
Mugabe, his party and police and security officials, many former guerrillas, are accused of human rights violations, election rigging and trampling on democratic freedoms in recent years.
The rift between the two leaders has shown itself in other ways as well.
Former guerrillas, now in senior ranks in the police and military, have refused to salute Tsvangirai, who did not fight in the bush war that brought about Zimbabwe’s independence from Britain in 1980. He instead campaigned against colonial injustices as a labor leader.
And last month, Tsvangirai and his party leaders stayed away from official functions hosted by Mugabe for visiting Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, said to be on a trade and investment mission to Zimbabwe.
Ahmadinejad won Mugabe’s support for his uranium-enrichment program and visited minor Iranian investments in Zimbabwe.
In a statement, Tsvangirai’s party likened the visit of the militant Islamic leader to “inviting a mosquito to cure malaria.” AP