Only six out of 40 invited heads of State attended the swearing-in of President Robert Mugabe for a new five-year term in a massive stadium inauguration that was boycotted by his election rival.
Chief Justice Godfrey Chidyausiku administered the oath of office on Mugabe, who pledged “to observe, uphold and defend the Constitution of Zimbabwe”.
Acting Harare metropolitan governor Alfred Tome had earlier claimed that leaders from around the world, with the notable exception of the US and Europe, have been invited to the inauguration — previously a low-key event.
“It’s a huge event which we expect to be graced by at least 40 heads of state or their representatives,” Tome said on Tuesday.
The event has been widely seen as an attempt to legitimise an election that opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai insists was rigged. Tsvangirai boycotted yesterday’s event, even though outgoing deputy prime minister Arthur Mutambara attended.
Only six southern African heads of State attended the event and these are: Tanzania president Jakaya Kikwete, Namibian leader Hifikepunye Pohamba, Mozambique president Armando Gebueza, Joseph Kabila of Democratic Republic of Congo, Equatorial Guniea Theodora Obiang Nguema Mbasogo and Mauritian president Rajkeswur Purryag.
Conspicuous by his absence was South Africa President Jacob Zuma, who was the facilitator of the Zimbabwe dialogue for the 15-nation Southern African Development Community (Sadc). Zuma instead sent his deputy Kgalema Mothalante and former president Thabo Mbeki.
In a statement, South Africa International Relations ministry said: “Deputy President Motlanthe will represent South Africa at Robert Mugabe’s inauguration as president of Zimbabwe on Thursday. He will be accompanied by International Relations minister Maite Nkoana Mashabane.
“The inauguration follows the ruling by the Constitutional Court of Zimbabwe on 20 August 2013 that… Mugabe is the duly elected president of Zimbabwe.
“President Jacob Zuma was among the first heads of state to congratulate President Mugabe on 3 August 2013 following the announcement of the results by the Zimbabwean Electoral Commission,” it said, adding Zuma was travelling to Angola on Friday.
Zuma reiterated South Africa’s readiness to continue to partner with Zimbabwe in pursuit of mutually beneficial co-operation. Zambia president Michael Sata was in a no-show as well, and dispatched his deputy Guy Scott.
Malawi president and Sadc chairperson Joyce Banda of Malawi sent her deputy Khumbo Kachali, while King Mswati III of Swaziland sent Prime Minister Barnabas Dlamini standing in for him.
The inauguration was attended mainly by Mugabe’s retired contemporaries, including former Zambian president Kenneth Kaunda, Sam Nujoma of Namibia, Tanzania’s former president Benjamin Mkapa, former Botswana presidents Festus Mogae and Kethumile Masire.
Analysts said the inauguration, spiced with pageantry, was Mugabe’s last victory lap.
“Despite the brave showing of popularity through a stolen land slide and the inauguration, Mugabe’s legitimacy is doubted and questioned,” said McDonald Lewanika, national director for pro-democracy pressure group Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition, said.
“This waters down his mandate to rule and govern as he would want. The biggest challenges that faces him are the same ones that confronted and haunted him in 2008, an economy being held afloat through a borrowed currency, a rich country whose riches are not benefitting ordinary people because they are being pocketed by the senior officials, an unfriendly and unpredictable economic and political environment that is not conducive to foreign direct investment and scary even for locals to invest in.”
Lewanika said Mugabe had taken a pledge that dictates that he needed to be subservient and loyal to the constitution, and said that will be his biggest test.
“We know that the constitution has not meant much to him and his acolytes, respect of the people’s rights has not been a priority – so we wait to see whether he changes tack on that one,” Lewanika said.
“But his biggest challenges will stem from the need to sustain the stability that had been achieved socially, politically and economically through cooperative government in the GNU, it will be to resist the natural authoritarian urges that are part and parcel of Zanu PF’s DNA.” Daily News