Three Western ambassadors who walked out on President Robert Mugabe at last week’s burial of his sister Sabina were yesterday conspicuous by their absence at the Heroes’ Day celebrations.
US Ambassador Charles Ray, Germany envoy Albrecht Conze and the Greek and EU charge d’affaires Stephanos Ioannides and Barbara Plinkert did not attend Monday’s commemorations.
Contacted for comment yesterday, one of the diplomats said in view of last week’s fiasco, they felt it appropriate to stay away from the Heroes’ Acre.
“In view of what happened last week, we decided not to attend the commemorations,” he said. The Western diplomats attended last year’s Heroes’ Day commemorations.
Mugabe last week told the West “to go to hell” triggering a walkout from the diplomats who felt the speech was disrespectful and provocative.
“They think they can dictate the pace here, remove so and so, Mugabe first – to hell with them, to hell, hell, hell with them. They cannot be good for us today when they could not be good to us yesterday. They detained us, jailed us, shot at us, bombed us, and slaughtered us in our hundreds,” he said.
Yesterday Zanu PF supporters oblivious of the subdued state of their leader, defiantly carried banners inscribed “Go to hell, hell, hell, hell” adding to a number of provocative placards on display at the national shrine.
The diplomats were also summoned last week by Foreign Affairs minister Simbarashe Mumbengegwi who expressed his displeasure over the walkout incident.
Ray and Conze told journalists after meeting with Mumbengegwi that they left the funeral because they felt Mugabe’s speech was insulting.
“When America is treated in the manner it was treated on Sunday, I will react,” Ray said.
Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, who was absent at last week’s burial of Sabina Mugabe yesterday turned up at the Heroes’ Acre —a sign interpreted by analysts as a positive development towards national healing.
The MDC-T national executive council also turned up for the commemorations.
Home Affairs co-minister Theresa Makone was the director of ceremonies, the first time an MDC-T official has performed such a role since the formation of the inclusive government.
MDC-T spokesperson Nelson Chamisa said his party decided to attend the Heroes’ Day celebrations in recognition that unity is essential for development in the country.
“We can be stronger together as a people my brother. Nation building is a collective effort. It was nice and I am sure the fallen heroes were happy to see an MDC-T brother next to a Zanu PF sister and a Zanu PF father next to an MDC child,” he said.
Only last week the MDC-T cried foul over the selection of national heroes and accused Zanu PF of monopolising national events.
They are also pushing for the inclusion of Tsvangirai on the official programme for national events alongside Mugabe.