Zimbabwean observances Monday of Heroes Day honoring fallen liberation leaders provided a counterpoint to the top-level power-sharing discussions between President Robert Mugabe, who gave a familiar speech denouncing what he called Western interference, and Morgan Tsvangirai, who declined to attend the observances at Heroes Acre outside Harare.
Mr. Mugabe was joined at the burial ground, however, by Arthur Mutambara, head of a rival formation of the Movement for Democratic Change that Tsvangirai founded in 1999, leading to speculation and criticism that Mutambara was seeking the president's favor.
The president in his Heroes Day speech took up a favored theme, accusing Britain of meddling in the country's internal affairs and declaring Zimbabwe was quote “not for sale.”
In an apparent oblique reference to the Movement for Democratic Change, President Mugabe warned his countrymen that "if...you are being used by enemies, stop it.” But he added that even if this were the case, such unnamed Zimbabweans remained “family members.”
Mugabe later said the talks were advancing, speaking of “little hurdles” to be overcome.
Tsvangirai’s absence from the
ceremonies was noted, though MDC officials for some years have declined to participate in what they consider to be a ruling party ritual.
Tsvangirai spokesman George Sibotshiwe told reporter Patience Rusere of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that the MDC formation wanted to avoid giving the impression that it was united with Mr. Mugabe at a function that he said has been “privatized” by ZANU-PF.
Mutambara’s presence at Heroes Acre drew even more attention, particularly in light of the Heroes Day speech his MDC formation circulated on Sunday which condemned supposed Western interference in terms not unlike those often employed by Mr. Mugabe.
Mr. Mutambara hailed the sacrifice and accomplishment of the liberation fighters, then turned to a denunciation of "the irritating ignorance, political insensitivity, double standards, and patronizing arrogance that characterize Western diplomacy with respect to our country."
He continued: "As we finalize the political settlement to the impasse in our country, we have heard sentiments from the West indicating that they will look at the agreement and decide whether it is acceptable to them. Who are they, to superintend, judge and grade a collective decision by Africans? It is not the place for Western governments or their institutions to determine whether the agreement is right or wrong. It is strictly none of their business."
Reporter Ntungamili Nkomo sought
perspective on Mutambara’s broadside from independent political analyst Last Moyo of London, who said Zimbabwe needed to rebuild ties to the West to encourage investment in the country's economic recovery, not launch invective.