SADC shuns Bingu as Comrade Mugabe is booed

bingu_wa_mutharikaZimbabwe President Robert Mugabe, who stirs mixed feelings in many Malawians, received hisses at Kamuzu Stadium in Blantyre where he was attending the countrys 45th independence celebrations on Monday.

The celebrations, where he was the only other head of state with his host Bingu wa Mutharika (pictured), appeared to have been studiously shunned by the 16-member Southern African Development Community, SADC. Only two low-ranking officials from Mozambique and Tanzania attended among locally-based diplomatic staff.

Government sources said the SADC heads are sending a message to Mugabe that his failure to cooperate with their recommendations on the way forward for the Zimbabwe government will not be tolerated.

But a political secretary in one embassy said it has dawned on the leaders of SADC who are on the verge of going to elections of their last terms of office, that they do not want to encourage their own successors to dump their political parties as Mutharika did in Malawi.

Mugabe who is seen by local Malawians as only a titular head following the formation of a unity government with Movement for Democratic Change, MDC was hissed at on entry and was openly booed with his host from the over-crammed 25,000- seater stadium in a show of disaffection with his presence in Malawi.

He was also here in May attending Mutharikas inauguration. Mugabe is the most frequent visitor and a political buddy of Mutharika.

Some said they were tired with Mugabe while others said the relationship has become an obsession with Mutharika at the expense of the people in the eyes of the international community and in particular, Britain which gives Malawi the second largest chunk of development aid after Bangladesh.

However, there also concerns that Malawi will be seen as comforting the enemy in the eyes of the emerging new leaders who may not be kind to the existing relation.

In the madness-filled attacks against so-called white farm settlers, many of the 3 million Zimbabweans who trace their origins to Malawi were also victims of the extrajudicial killings, arbitrary arrests, rape and torture from marauding Mugabe thugs in uniform and plain clothes.

Others said attended the celebrations for the love of football which was played at the end of long-winded political speeches where Mutharika and his officials took turns to vilify the opposition, in the fashion that his guest revered until he faced the reality that he cannot survive without the opposition.

Mugabe has been a source of mixed reaction in Malawi with protests from civil society and opposition followers removing his name from road furniture bearing his name.

However, Mutharika whose foreign policy favours close ties with China and countries such as Iran as opposed to major bilateral donors like Britain declared Mugabe his political hero.

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