OUTSIDE LOOKING IN – A letter from the diaspora

With yesterdayss fairy tale royal wedding over, it is time to return to more unpleasant realities and the media today have space for something more down- to-earth to talk about.

Robert Mugabes trip to the Vatican for the beatification of Pope John Paul 11 has caught the attention of the BBC and todays UK Independent. EU sanctions prohibit Mugabe from travelling to member countries of the EU but the Vatican is a separate state and not a member of the European Union so Mugabe will be among the 87 dignitaries from all over the world attending the beatification of John Paul 11in Rome on Sunday. BBC News reports that he has arrived in Rome accompanied by his wife and the usual entourage.

Much to many Zimbabweans disgust, Zimbabwes ambassador to the UK, Gabriel Machinga, was invited to the royal wedding along with the Syrian ambassador. Syrias invitation was withdrawn at the last minute with the news that the Syrian authorities has killed some hundreds of demonstrators but as far as I know Gabriel Machinga was there in Westminster Abbey despite Zimbabwes appalling human rights record The Foreign Office maintained that the UK had normal diplomatic relations with Zimbabwe and there was no reason not to include the Zimbabwean ambassador on the guest list. Once again, double standards won the day. Perhaps the Foreign Office is unaware of Mugabes unrelenting tirades against the British.? Whatever the reason, it is clear to see how double standards and hypocrisy flourish on all sides in international relations.

As for Robert Mugabes trip to Rome, well thats hypocrisy of quite another kind. Speaking on April 22nd at the opening of a new ZCC conference centre in Masvingo. Mugabe was at great pains to stress how disillusioned he was with the Catholic Church, not because he had suddenly discovered that the church he has belonged to all his life was wrong in matters of faith or doctrine or that he had lost his faith but because it was a church led by whites who were angry, he claimed, that the country was being led by a black man. The real reason, of course, was to do with the fact that the Catholic Church in Zimbabwe has been a little just a little- more outspoken than other churches in its criticism of Mugabes human rights record and his ceaseless attacks on the opposition. From now on Mugabe told the ZCC gathering he would look to indigenous churches for support. What a convenient memory the man has! He seems to have forgotten that it was the Catholics who helped and supported him in the struggle against the Smith regime back in the seventies. As I recall, it was two Catholic nuns who drove him to the Mozambique border at the start of the struggle, with Robert Mugabe safe on the back seat wearing the clerical collar of a Catholic priest! His great friend the late Archbishop Patrick Chakaipa was a priest at All Souls Mission in Mutoko when I first knew him and I remember him as a delightful man without a racist bone in his body. He was just one of many Catholic priests, black and white, I knew in those early days who wholeheartedly supported the liberation struggle. But now more than thirty years later, when it suits him, Mugabe condemns the whole Catholic Church because it is led by whites who are not happy that the country is being led by a black man. I wonder if the Vatican knew about that particular piece of foolishness from Mugabe when they issued the invitation to the beatification? Yesterday the Vatican said it had nothing to hide after there was widespread criticism of the decision to invite the Zimbabwean dictator. A Vatican spokesman explained that the invitation was a function of the diplomatic relations between the Holy See and Zimbabwe. whatever that means. Mugabe was present at Pope John Paul 11s funeral, even managed to get himself seated next to the British heir to the throne and actually shook Prince Charles by the hand. A splendid propaganda coup for Mugabe who delights in the worlds attention. Perhaps he will be able to repeat the coup at the beatification ceremony where, I understand another British royal will be present. For someone who supposedly hates whites, Mugabe appears not to mind their colour if they are of royal lineage. Hypocrisy and double standards at work again! Yours in the (continuing) struggle PH. aka Pauline Henson.

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