Mugabe shadow looms large at Sadc solidarity conference

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By Richard Chidza

OVER a year after his removal from power, former President Robert Mugabe’s shadow continues to loom large at regional level, as his political influence in the country seems to be waning by each passing day.

Regional power bloc Sadc, is holding a solidarity conference as part of efforts to push for the independence of Western Sahara whose territory is currently occupied by Morocco.

Sources attending the conference jointly hosted by South Africa and Namibia said a clip of Mugabe lashing out at Morocco’s occupation of the Western Sahara was played before the start of proceedings.

“A video clip of former President Mugabe, lashing out at Morocco’s colonial tendencies in Western Sahara, was played before the start of proceedings. It was a clip of Mugabe’s reacting angrily at Morocco’s admission into the African Union (AU).

“Mugabe is still respected even though he is no longer in power. His ideas continue to influence regional politics on the continent and in the region,” heard.

Presidential spokesperson George Charamba confirmed that indeed Mugabe’s ideas continue to be held in high esteem across the continent.

“There is nothing unusual about it. SADR is regarded as the last colony on the continent, Zanu PF is a liberation movement and so is the Porisario Front.

“There was indeed a slot for a video and it was played. His (Mugabe’s) ideas are held in high regard and they continue to influence us that’s why we have the land reform program,” Charamba said South Africa.

Mugabe was forced out of power after a military coup in November 2017 paving way for President Emmerson Mnangagwa to rise to the throne two weeks after he had been fired as Vice President.

As if this was not enough, Mugabe’s former Foreign Affairs Minister Simbarashe Mumbengegwi is also attending the conference as a “Special Guest” to the conference organisers, it was learnt.

Mumbengegwi is Zanu PF secretary for external affairs and pictures showed him interacting with South African International Relations Minister Lindiwe Sisulu.

At the time Morocco was re-admitted in January 2017, Zimbabwean officials attending an AU conference in Addis Ababa were clear Mugabe did not support the move.

“If Morocco wants to be a member of the African Union, it has to accede to the principles of the African Union,” an official was quoted as having said.

“They have to accept the boundaries that were there at independence, and those boundaries show the Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR) and Morocco as distinct, sovereign territories.”

However, Morocco was admitted despite Mugabe’s protestations, amid reports the North African country had used its oil wealth to arm-twist African leaders to accept its return to the AU fold.

The fall-out between Zimbabwe and Morocco spilled into Mugabe’s bid to have the Tourism Minister Walter Mzembi elected as United Nations World Tourism Authority (UNWTO) secretary general. Morocco, which at the time was one of a few African countries which held a vote went against Zimbabwe and in the process influenced other countries such as Tunisia to do the same.

“Then there was the Morocco factor. Morocco did not like Zimbabwe because Zimbabwe was opposed to its readmission to the African Union, until it frees Saharawi,” state media reported.

Georgian Zurab Pololikashvili won the poll.