Swiss luxury revealed
From David Sharrock in Geneva
IN an extraordinary display of indifference to what the world thinks
of Zimbabwe’s woes, President Mugabe of Zimbabwe began a three-day
visit to Switzerland for a United Nations conference by checking into
one of the country’s most exclusive hotels.
Mr Mugabe selected La Réserve, a country club-style spa on the
shores of Lake Geneva, for his 20-strong entourage. Rooms at the Réserve
cost from £380, with the presidential suite available for £4,500.
Jacuzzis and flatscreen televisions come as standard with the suites
and at sunset every guest receives a handwritten weather report for
the next day.
Whether or not Mr Mugabe feels he needs such pampering after the exertions
of pulling Zimbabwe out of the Commonwealth last weekend, he was certainly
reluctant to come out of his suite yesterday. When he finally did, the
Zen-like calm that the Réserve strives to create was shattered
by a display of thuggish behaviour from his bodyguards, who manhandled
several waiting photographers.
part, Mr Mugabe beamed genially from behind his corridor of minders,
but ignored questions from reporters about his decision to withdraw
from the Commonwealth after Zimbabwe’s suspension from the body
was renewed in Nigeria. Earlier, Jonathan Moyo, the Zimbabwean Information
Minister, when asked why the decision had been made, replied: "Ask
Mr Mugabe was granted a visa to travel to Geneva even though Switzerland
has followed the lead of the European Union and the United States by
imposing sanctions on Zimbabwe, including a travel ban for the President,
his wife and 77 close associates.
The UN conference - on the urgent need to bridge the technology gap
that threatens to leave the Third World in the Dark Ages while industrial
nations make swift progress in the digital age - has given him an opportunity
to cock a snook at the EU’s sanctions and give a high-profile
demonstration that he is far from friendless in the world.
used his speech to attack Britain and the United States. He told the
summit: "These last two years have shown us how information and
communications technologies (ICT) superiority are often deployed as
a prelude and accompaniment to aggressing the sovereignties of poor
and small nations. I say this because my country Zimbabwe continues
to be a victim of such aggression with both the UK and the United States
using ICT superiority to challenge our sovereignty through hostile and
malicious broadcasts calculated to foment instability and destroy the
state through divisions."
Mr Mugabe revelled in the role of international statesman when he addressed
the leaders of more than 60 nations. They listened attentively and he
received the applause of half of Africa, the presidents of the Baltic
states, much of the Middle East and the French Prime Minister for his
innocuous words on technology. Yet his enthusiasm for the internet may
come as a surprise in Zimbabwe.
Last month 15 people were arrested and charged under the Public Order
and Security Act for sending out e-mails from an internet café
in Harare, which urged demonstrations in protest against the President’s
rule. The alleged miscreants were released on bail and are awaiting
trial in the first case of its kind in Zimbabwe - The Times (UK)
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