PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe will attend a cultural festival in India that has been snubbed by the host country’s president and several international leaders, including the Zanu PF leader’s African peers, NewsDay has learnt.
BY RICHARD CHIDZA
Mugabe left Harare on Monday to attend the three-day World Culture Festival to be held in New Delhi starting on Friday.
Curiously, Zimbabwe’s Rural Development, Preservation and Promotion of Culture and Heritage minister, Abednigo Ncube, was left out of Mugabe’s entourage, which included Foreign Affairs minister Simbarashe Mumbengegwi and several other top government officials.
Ncube confirmed yesterday that he was not part of the delegation to India.
“I am sorry I did not manage to go with the President,” he said.
Regis Chikowore, the principal director in the Information ministry, declined to comment over the issue.
“Get in touch with his (Mugabe’s) spokesperson (George Charamba). He is on roaming,” he said.
Charamba’s mobile phone was unreachable.
While some countries are represented by culture ministers and even legislators in the case of Japan and Germany, former presidents of Nigeria and Mozambique, Olusegun Obasanjo and Joachim Chissano, respectively, represent their countries.
Former French Premier Dominique de Villepin also makes up the list of former Heads of State in
The presidents of Sri Lanka and Nepal are among the few serving Heads of State at the festival.
Indian President Pranab Mukherjee, who was supposed to host the event, has already said he will not attend this week’s festival, organised by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar of Art of Living, in protest over the organisers’ decision to have it in a protected flood plain, east of the capital.
“The President cannot attend the function due to unavoidable circumstances,” the Indian Business Standard quoted an official at the Rashtrapati Bhavan, India’s Presidential Palace, early yesterday. Mukherjee, according to the paper, had earlier agreed to attend the valedictory ceremony on Sunday.
A judgment is expected today in the case where an environmental lobby group, The National Green Tribunal, wants the function stopped, claiming “organisers will release ‘enzymes’ into 17 drains that flow into the Yamuna for cleaning the river”.
“This proposed activity would be in blatant violation of the provisions of the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974, and the Biological Diversity Act, 2002, since it is, basically, introducing foreign elements into the river, without any scientific study or information,” the petition said.
It said while thousands were expected to attend the event, “concerns have been raised by experts about the likely damage to the environment caused by holding it on the flood plains of the already polluted river in east Delhi”.
Academic and political analyst Ibbo Mandaza said Mugabe might not be to blame for the “botched-up job”.
“We need to find out who invited him in the first place. If it is the Indian government, then they are to blame for the botched-up job and not Mugabe,” he said.
Another analyst, Maxwell Saungweme, said the India episode typically shows “misplaced priorities by Mugabe”.
“Misplaced priorities, lack of touch with reality and an unquenchable affinity for foreign trips, yet the purses are empty and the economy is on its knees. Sadly, it is the millions of young and poor Zimbabweans who bear the brunt of this frivolous spending by an aged regime,” he said.
“This regime has no future and it’s taking the future of Zimbabwe with it. Other forward-looking governments such as the Indian one, invest for the future. They invest to attract tourism, but for ours, they are the tourists. Spending is all they know.”
Mugabe, according to local State media, will, after the festival, make follow-up meetings on the “mega deals” he signed with Indian business-people last year and later travel to Singapore for undisclosed business.