Outrage as Mugabe takes COMESA chair

HARARE - President Robert Mugabe takes over the chairmanship of Africa's largest trading bloc, the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) in Victoria Falls on Sunday.

The summit has been cancelled three times in a row due to Mugabes legitimacy crisis. Only the formation of the GNU has made it possible for the summit to take place.

Outraged critics said it was ironic and unfortunate that Mugabe, who has vandalised his own country’s economy, should occupy the top position of the regional economic body.

John Makumbe, a political science professor at the University of Zimbabwe, said Mugabe’s leadership of the 19-nation trading bloc was “highly questionable.”

COMESA postponed its summit in April, then in August and again in November last year after it staunchly refused to recognise Mugabe’s stolen presidency following the flawed March 29 and sham June 27 violent-wrecked run-off vote.

Observers noted that the chairmanship was being passed to Mugabe by Mwai Kibaki, the Kenya President whose own election was violently disputed, forcing him to form a government of national unity with the opposition. COMESA said it had now recognised the inclusive government formed between President Mugabe’s Zanu (PF) and the two MDC formations by hosting its 13th heads of State and government summit in Zimbabwe.

The summit is expected to finalise steps towards forming the customs union, after the member countries agreed to allow free movement of capital goods with a 10 percent tax on intermediate products and a 25 percent tax for finished goods.

COMESA has said it will finance the summit, as Zimbabwe’s new unity government struggles to find money to feed the population and pay public sector workers.

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