The Movement for Democratic Change headed by Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai (MDC-T) and Bulawayo civic society groups on Friday boycotted the official opening of the Zimbabwe International Trade Fair (ZITF) by the President of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
The MDC-T had earlier likened Ahmadinejad’s invitation to “inviting a mosquito to cure Malaria”.
However, the break-away MDC faction headed by Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara was present and has since distanced itself from the position taken by MDC-T.
In his speech, the Iranian President, who is widely accused of trampling on human rights, ironically attacked western counties and accused them of disregarding human dignity.
“These arrogant states do not respect human dignity and they strive at depriving other countries of their rights, natural resources and their right to peace and prosperity,” said Ahmadinejad.
In separate interviews, members of the public and some civic leaders said that the invitation of the Iranian president to open this year’s ZITF gives the wrong impression of Zimbabwe.
A South African exhibitor echoed the same sentiments.
“Your friends determine the type of person you are and if Zimbabwe is friends with terrorists, then what does that say about yourselves?” he asked.
Civil society organisations on mobilised their members of the public to boycott the official opening ceremony.
Methuseli Moyo, the Zapu spokesperson said the invitation by President Robert Mugabe to the Iranian President compromised the country’s image.
“If countries support each other in controversial policies, then that makes us controversial as well and it compromises our image.
“What makes it worse is that the MDC-T has also boycotted this function, meaning they were not consulted and meaning there is no inclusive government to talk about,” said Moyo.
A human rights activist, Zenzele Ndebele said the MDC-T should take this as a wake-up call.
“Iranians are not friends that you can claim in public and they have not brought much investment into Zimbabwe. If the MDC-T was not consulted on this decision, then it should be a wake-up call for them and maybe it’s time they move out of the so-called inclusive government,” he said.
Another civic leader, Effie Ncube said: “As CSOs we are strongly against the official opening of the ZITF by the Iranian President and we have agreed that we are boycotting the official opening. We have also mobilised members of the public not to attend the function,” said Ncube.