Mugabe cancels UN trip after wife, six aides denied visas

PRESIDENT Mugabe had to cancel his trip to the United Nations after his wife Grace and six other top aides were denied visas to the International Telecommunications Union summit on information communication technologies underway in Geneva.

Grace Mugabe
Grace Mugabe

Those denied visas included his wife Grace Mugabe, Foreign Affairs Minister Simbarashe Mumbengegwi, Transport, Communications and Infrastructure Development Minister Nicholas Goche, Director General in the President's Department Retired Major General Happyton Bonyongwe, Secretary for Media, Information and Publicity Mr George Charamba, and his aide de camp Senior Assistant Commissioner Martin Kwainona were denied visas.

However, the MDC Information Communication Technology Minister Nelson Chamisa, who was part of the delegation, was granted a visa.

Swiss authorities said those issued with visas were adequate to represent Zimbabwe in this summit, thus Mr Mugabe and Mr Chamisa and there was no need for spending huge sums of money traveling when millions of Zimbabweans were reeling from poverty.

"Our ambassadors (to the UN in Geneva and the UN in New York) were told that the Swiss had made their decision and not violated the host agreement. They (Swiss authorities) argued that they had given visas to the Zimbabwean delegation and those given were adequate to represent Zimbabwe at the summit," said the official.

The Swiss embassy also said it had done its part by issuing "exceptionally a visa to President Mugabe" and taking into consideration that those denied visas were on the European Union sanctions list.

A senior official in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs confirmed yesterday that Zimbabwe had lodged a protest with the UN and the Swiss authorities.

"We noted that this was a highly regrettable decision which was a clear violation of the United Nations headquarters host agreement and Zimbabwe's sovereign right to determine the composition of its delegation," the official said.

According to the official, Zimbabwe lodged its protest through the Swiss embassies in Harare and Geneva, the UN in New York as well as to the UN secretary-general, his representative at the ITU and the secretary-general of the ITU, which is headquartered in Geneva.

The ITU is a UN specialised agency for telecommunications.

Switzerland is not a member of the EU, but asserts to be an associate member which is neutral in world politics.

However, President Mugabe, who was given a visa and the six who were denied the visas, are all on the EU sanctions list, which bars them from travelling to EU member countries.

Contacted for comment yesterday, Mr Charamba said: "These are changed times and nowadays you become neutral from one side, in this case the western side. Switzerland has called itself neutral in terms of international politics, anyway the Zimbabwe Government knows what recourse it takes in terms of international law."

Mr Charamba said it was surprising that a country which calls itself neutral had taken a decision to divide a government of national unity, a family (the First Family)and a delegation by issuing visas to some members and denying others.

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