President Robert Mugabe has arrived back home from Singapore where he had stopped over en-route to the World Culture Festival in India.
Foreign Affairs Minister Simbarashe Mumbengegwi says it was no longer appropriate for the President to proceed as planned after being notified that the security situation in New Delhi had deteriorated and there had arisen inadequacies in protocol.
President Mugabe arrived at the Harare International Airport Saturday morning and was welcomed by the two vice presidents Emmerson Mnangagwa and Phelekezela Mphoko, several cabinet ministers, Chief Secretary to the President and Cabinet Dr Misheck Sibanda, senior government officials and service chiefs.
The World Culture Festival was cancelled when organisers of the event came under heavy fire from environmentalists in India, who criticised the hosting of the event on the fragile ecosystem of the Yamuna River floodplains.
The environmentalists raised concern with the impact the temporary structures that were being put up for the festival would have had on the ecology and biodiversity in the area.
Permission for the event had been granted on the basis that no permanent structures would be constructed but reports compiled by the National Green Tribunal of India later noted damage on 50 to 60 hectares of the land.
Mumbengegwi clarified that President Mugabe was not only attending the festival as a guest of honour, but was also going to take the opportunity to interact in an informal environment with the Indian President Pranab Mukherjee as well as the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and follow up on a number of investment projects that the two countries are pursuing.
“The event was confirmed when President Mugabe departed and a number of heads of state and government and former presidents were also expected to attend,” said Mumbengegwi.
Mumbengegwi added that the disturbances that occurred at Calcutta Airport just before the commencement of the festival also raised fears that similar disturbances could occur at the festival, raising security concerns for the invited dignitaries.
Earlier on, Presidential spokesperson George Charamba had indicated that the interest by journalists to locate the President’s whereabouts was mere journalistic curiosity and not a requirement of public information and it was his duty as the Presidential spokesperson to ensure that central information is in the public domain.
Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena, Nepal President Bindhiya Devi Bhandari, former Afghan President Hamid Karzai, former Pakistan Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gillani and Former French Prime Minister Dominique De Villepin also cancelled their participation at the event.