Former education minister David Coltart has come out guns blazing against President Emmerson Mnangagwa's decision to invite Ugandan President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni to officiate at the 60th Zimbabwe International Trade Fair (ZITF) this week in Bulawayo.
The renowned human rights lawyer and Bulawayo based opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) aligned politician described Museveni's invitation as inappropriate on the basis that the 74-year-old retired military man has failed to uphold tenets of democracy in his own country.
In an exclusive interview with 263Chat, Coltart said Museveni's invitation is an attempt by Mnangagwa's regime to lure the international community into believing that the latter's government represents a new democratic trajectory in Zimbabwe, yet it paints a bad picture of the country as Museveni is associated with dictatorial tendencies.
"It is entirely inappropriate for the government to have invited Museveni to open ZITF for a variety of reasons. Firstly the Mnangagwa regime is trying to persuade the world that it is a "new dispensation", committed to respecting democracy; that notion is not advanced by inviting a dictator to open your premier trade show.
"Secondly, Museveni has driven the Ugandan economy into the ground and so he is hardly the best example of a leader who has transformed his country's economy.
"Thirdly, the timing of this invitation is appalling given Museveni's current persecution of the opposition, and in particular Bobi Wine, in Uganda. The message it sends to the world is that we endorse his tyranny. Mnangagwa would have been much better advised to invite someone like the new Ethiopian PM Abiy Ahmed Ali who has embraced democracy and boosted the country's economy," he said.
However, when reached for comment Information, Media and Broadcasting Services Deputy Minister Energy Mutodi short down Coltart's sentiments describing Museveni as a legitimate person whose status among the international organizations is unquestionable.
"He is a legitimate President of Uganda and is recognized by the United Nations so by every right he is eligible to come and officially open our ZITF just like any other President from any other country.
"The dictatorship he is talking about it's very trivial, there is no measurement for dictatorship. Anyone can just come up with such a derogatory of someone without real evidence to that. He has won elections in his country several times," he said.
Mutodi added that Museveni has a lot of things to share with Zimbabwe on the business side particularly on how to enhance the government's Vision 2030 which envisages 'Middle Income Economy' in the next 11 years.
"We have to hear from him when he comes. He has quite a lot to share with us. The ZITF is a showcase of what companies and various government departments are doing in trying to achieve the national vision of achieving Middle Income Economy by 2030," Mutodi said.
Museveni has currently put popular musician and opposition leader Bob Wine under house arrest, a move that has been widely condemned and perceived as a threat to democracy in Uganda.
The ZITF opened on Tuesday on a low note a sign that the economy is on a tumbling trend with the citizenry being made to tighten their belts to the extremes.
Bob WineDavid ColtartEnergy MutodiMDCPresident Emmerson MnanangwaYoweri Kaguta MuseveniZimbabwe International Trade Fair