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ED UK trip meets with protests

The placard-carrying protesters sang and chanted slogans denouncing Mnangagwa while demanding his “urgent repatriation” from the United Kingdom (UK).

BY MIRIAM MANGWAYA/MOSES MATENGA SCORES of Zimbabweans based in Glasgow, Scotland yesterday demonstrated against President Emmerson Mnangagwa who is currently attending the United Nations (UN) COP26 Climate Summit in that country, accusing him of perpetrating gross human right violations back home.

The placard-carrying protesters sang and chanted slogans denouncing Mnangagwa while demanding his “urgent repatriation” from the United Kingdom (UK).

They claimed that Mnangagwa did not deserve to attend the summit due to “heinous crimes” his ruling Zanu PF party has committed back home, including mass killings like the 1980s Gukurahundi genocide.

Some of the placards they were waving read, Mnangagwa ordered Gukurahundi, and Zanu PF sanctions are not impacting on the Zimbabwe economy, Zanu PF corruption is.

But Information deputy minister Kindness Paradza yesterday rubbished the protestors, saying they were wasting their time as Mnangagwa was enjoying “celebrity” status in Scotland where scores of his supporters, including whites, were proudly wearing regalia emblazoned with his image as they welcomed him to the UK.

“The Zimbabweans based in Scotland are actually organising a big welcome party for the President,” Paradza said.

“I am sure you have seen videos of people who are pushing trolleys full of beer in Scotland, which have gone viral on social media. They are putting on party regalia and they are welcoming the President, and these people include the whites there. What we know is that the President has received a resounding welcome.”

Political analysts, however, accused Mnangagwa of desperately trying to use COP26 for his political public relations stunts and wasting the country’s scarce financial resources through using a rented crowd to welcome him.

Back home, frustrations were growing yesterday with citizens complaining on social media platforms that Mnangagwa reportedly hired a luxurious Airbus A319-115 from Azerbaijan which costs close to US$1 million to attend the global conference.  It was not, however, clear who paid for it.

Presidential spokesperson George Charamba confirmed that Mnangagwa took eight men of the cloth with him to Europe where he intends to push for an end to sanctions.

“No time to waste. An integral component on the side-lines of the Glasgow summit is our anti-sanctions push. Some eight clerics travelled with the President and are set to meet with religious and political leaders to press against illegal sanctions on Zimbabwe,” Charamba tweeted.

Information ministry secretary Ndabaningi Mangwana torched a storm when he tweeted announcing that there would be a welcome party for Mnangagwa.  He also posted a picture of Zanu PF officials buying huge quantities of whisky.

“Tonight there is a massive welcome party held in honour of President Mnangagwa. Glasgow is the place to be as Zimbabweans from all corners of the UK attend this shindig and welcome their President. The party will spill over to the streets tomorrow. In the UK? Join the party,” Mangwana tweeted.

Paradza dismissed claims of government extravagance in Glasgow.

“These are speculative, ungrounded claims by malicious individuals who have sinister motives behind,” he said, and referred further questions to Information minister Monica Mutsvangwa, who was, however, not picking up calls.

Political analyst Rashweat Mukundu said Mnangagwa’s opulence was a waste of the country’s resources.

“The Scotland trip by ED and the extravagance that we are seeing indicates the very contradictions of his reformist agenda and the continued abuse of State resources by those around him and himself.  For a country struggling on many fronts, one would expect people to be more cautious in terms of how they use State resources, but as you can see, there was absolutely no interest by this government to be more prudent in terms of resource utilisation.

“Some of these foreign trips are nothing more than just an opportunity to milk the Treasury, more so looking at the tens and tens of people in his delegation that have no slightest idea of why they are in Scotland, but now they are part of the trip by the head of State,” he said.

Mukundu said this was evidence of lack of accountability on the part of the Zanu PF government.

UK-based law lecturer and political analyst Alex Magaisa said: “It’s a sign of the tragic lack of leadership in our country that at a global event where everyone is gathering to discuss the future of an endangered planet, the delegation’s preoccupation is to push and amplify Zanu PF propaganda.”

Government has, however, claimed that the meeting will strengthen its re-engagement efforts to improve its frosty relations with London.

Mnangagwa bragged that the trip was a “success” as he was the sole Zimbabwean Head of State to be invited to the UK in 25 years.

“Thank you to PM @BorisJohnson and @antonioguterres for welcoming me to #COP26,” he said on his Twitter handle @edmnangagwa. “As the first President of Zimbabwe to visit the United Kingdom in a quarter of a century, it is clear that re-engagement is working.”

Despite government claims that Mnangagwa will meet Johnson at the COP26, professor of world politics at SOAS, University of London, Stephen Chan said Johnson had no time to meet and talk to the southern African country leader.

“Mnangagwa says he hopes to meet Johnson. The best he will get is a handshake in the corridor or something equally brief,” Chan said.

“Johnson has to have serious talks with (US President Joe) Biden, (French President Emmanuel) Macron and (India’s Prime Minister Narendra) Modi. Zimbabweans have got to get used to it: in terms of importance, the country is rock bottom.”

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