20 April 2009

Zimbabwe: No Uhuru Speech for Tsvangirai Uhuru Line-Up

PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe left out Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai from the Independence celebrations programme.

Sources told The Standard that Tsvangirai had requested to address the nation despite the fact that it was not mandatory that he speaks at such events.

Sources said Mugabe had agreed to slot in Tsvangirai but changed his mind later and did not inform the MDC-T leader.

MDC spokesperson and Minister of Information Communication Technology Nelson Chamisa said it was unfortunate that Tsvangirai did not address the gathering.

"As MDC-T it was our belief and conviction that the inclusive government has inclusive processes and dimensions," Chamisa said. "The fact that the PM did not speak was an unfortunate accident which is not to be repeated."

Chamisa said thousands of MDC-T supporters who thronged the stadium expecting Tsvangirai to address the nation for the first time were taken aback when he was not given the platform.

He said it was an opportunity for Tsvangirai to share his views with the whole world about the country's independence. He said independence celebrations did not belong to one party or one person.

Despite the misgivings by the MDC-T, politicians from the three main political parties convened at the National Sports Stadium in Harare to celebrate the country's 29th anniversary of Independence.

The event, which used to be marked by Zanu PF colours over the last 28 years, was different this year as people were banned from wearing party regalia.

Mugabe appealed for economic assistance from regional and global partners.

"We have cause to celebrate as this year's Independence Anniversary comes against the background of recent positive developments that have demonstrated beyond any doubt that there are more values and aspirations that bind us than those designed to divide us as a people", Mugabe said. "Yes, the reckoning that we share a common destiny bids us, the Zimbabweans, to find and discover each other as members of one national family".

In separate interviews with The Standard members of the public said they were happy that the country was united in celebrating the national event.

"We are so happy today, there was no MDC and no Zanu PF. We are tired of fighting each other. We just want people to be united and rebuild our country," said Rosemary Musungwa of Harare.

Wilson Matarenyika from Epworth said he was happy that the inclusive government had brought people together. "This is a memorable day for us. We fought for this country not to fight each other. We want to live together in harmony."

The country's security chiefs appeared to live up to their word not to salute Tsvangirai.

When the PM arrived, the service chiefs immediately left the VIP tents to meet Mugabe who arrived 10 minutes later. The service chiefs declared that they would never salute Tsvangirai. They even snubbed his swearing in ceremony.

Tsvangirai was however well received by members of the public on his arrival. Many stood up to greet him.

Despite calls for unity, some MDC and Zanu PF supporters sat on different sides. Although there were no party regalia to identify them, their support became obvious as a certain section of the stadium would loudly cheer every time Tsvangirai's name was mentioned. Mugabe would also receive such reaction from supporters on the other side.

The celebrations were held in various other venues across the country.

In Bulawayo, politicians from Zanu PF and MDC celebrated the event at the White City Stadium together with about 1 500 people.

Police officers manning the gates turned away Zanu PF supporters who attempted to enter the stadium clad in T-shirts emblazoned with Mugabe's picture. This was despite announcements that party regalia would not to be allowed at all venues.

In an interview at the end of the celebrations, Gorden Moyo, the Minister of State in the Prime Minister's office, said the celebrations were an important event that would unite Zimbabweans.

"This is a historic occasion where Zimbabweans come together to celebrate the independence of their country", Moyo said. "It is a day when we reflect on the past and concentrate on building the future of this country."

The crowd was however alarmed by the number of uniformed officers who collapsed during parade.

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