Mugabe eyes 'grand' inauguration
22 August 2013, 14:02
Harare - Zimbabwe's veteran leader Robert Mugabe will be
sworn in for a new five-year term on Thursday in a massive stadium inauguration
that will be boycotted by his election rival.
Opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai insists the 31 July vote
that returned the 89-year-old to power was rigged and will shun the
The event will take place at the country's largest 60 000-seater
sports stadium and around 40 leaders have been invited.
"It's going to be a grand occasion, no doubt about
that," said Simon Khaya-Moyo, chairperson of Mugabe's Zanu-PF party.
A constitutional court ruling confirmed Mugabe as president
and declared the elections "free, fair and credible" and that the results
"reflected the free will of the people of Zimbabwe".
But Tsvangirai's spokesperson said the opposition leader
"can't attend a robber's party".
"Expecting Tsvangirai to attend the inauguration is
like expecting a victim of robbery to attend a party hosted by the
robber," Tsvangirai's spokesperson Luke Tamborinyoka said.
The inauguration had been delayed after Tsvangirai
challenged the poll results in a petition to the constitutional court.
"We are excited about the inauguration ceremony,"
Rugare Gumbo, spokesperson for Zanu-PF said.
"Our win represents the defeat of neo-colonialism and
tomorrow we are celebrating not only president Mugabe's inauguration but the
victory of Zimbabwe, Africa and progressive forces across the world."
Unlike previous investitures which were low-key, the
ceremony promises to be high-profile in what is seen as a show of power
designed to confer legitimacy amid persistent questions around the vote which
extended Mugabe's 33-year grip on power.
The organisers said the event would be similar to Mugabe's
inauguration as prime minister in 1980.
But of the foreign leaders invited, only Namibia's
Hifikepunye Pohamba is so far known to have confirmed.
South Africa, which brokered a peace deal after the violence
tinged 2008 vote, is sending Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe. Botswana and
Malawi will do the same.
Former leaders from Tanzania, Botswana, Mozambique, Namibia
and Zambia will attend.
A music concert will include artists from South Africa,
Zambia and Jamaica - whose iconic Bob Marley played at Zimbabwe's independence
"This inauguration is being projected as the crowning
of a victory of a struggle for the past 13 years against big Western
powers," said Eldred Masunungure, a political scientist from the
University of Zimbabwe.
There is however also an "unintended meaning", he
said. "It can be read as a farewell event for Mugabe. It reminds one of
Jesus's Last Supper."
Thousands of Mugabe's supporters were expected to troop in
from across the country.
The electoral commission declared Mugabe winner with 61% of the vote, against Tsvangirai's 34.
The elections ended a shaky power-sharing government formed
by Mugabe and Tsvangirai four years ago to avoid a tip into conflict following
a bloody presidential run-off election.
Local observers have judged the elections flawed and Western
powers have raised serious doubts over the vote. But regional and continental
groupings the Southern African Development Community and the African Union were
Tsvangirai condemned the election as "a farce" and
"a massive fraud" and petitioned the court to overturn the result.
Among a series of complaints, he queried the suspiciously
high number of voters who were turned away from polling stations in urban areas
which are considered opposition strongholds.
He also charged that his party's supporters in rural areas
were intimidated by Mugabe party backers into feigning illiteracy and voting in
the presence of police and election officers.
But in a surprise U-turn on Friday, Tsvangirai withdrew his
petition saying he would not get a fair hearing.
He said the courts had frustrated his efforts to access
election materials he wanted to use as evidence.
But the constitutional court went ahead and handed down a
ruling on the case anyway.