The Zimbabwe Republic Police band on Monday caused a stir when they refused to play the national anthem because of President Robert Mugabe's absence in Harare.
The band even refused to comply with a request from Sylvester Nguni, the Minister of State in Vice-President Joice Mujuru's office. The Vice President was pencilled in as the guest of honour, but failed to attend due to other commitments.
The incident took place at the Harare International Conference Centre during a medium term plan conference, organised by the Ministry of Economic Planning and Investment Promotion.
A source who witnessed the drama said the permanent secretary in the Economic Planning Ministry, Desire Sibanda, had asked quests (including Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai), to stand for the national anthem.
'For about five minutes people waited and Sibanda asked the police to play the anthem and again they refused. One of their leaders then went to whisper to Sibanda that it cannot be played in the absence of Mugabe.
'Nguni, who was representing Mujuru, advised the police that he was standing in for the Vice-President and therefore had to play the anthem but again they refused,' the source said.
Our correspondent Simon Muchemwa said the incident, in front of international guests, was an embarrassment to the inclusive government.
'There were many guests from the international community and what they witnessed was a bad public relations stunt by the police band. If it is a government event, regardless of Mugabe's presence or not, it is a requirement for the national anthem to be played,' Muchemwa explained.