Zimbabwe’s fragile coalition government has been hit by a new row after President Robert Mugabe unilaterally invited Iranian leader Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to the country.
President Ahmadinejad arrives in Zimbabwe on April 23 to open the country’s biggest trade showcase in the second city of Bulawayo and a tractor manufacturing plant outside Harare.
But Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change says the invitation would spoil Zimbabwe’s image because of the Iranian leader’s bad reputation internationally.
The party, which alongside Mr Mugabe’s Zanu PF enjoys equal influence in the inclusive government formed last year, said the decision to invite Ahmadinejad was taken “unilaterally” and was an insult to Zimbabweans. “The MDC condemns the scandalous invitation of Ahmadinejad,” the party said in a statement.
“His visit will definitely send a wrong message about the kind of company that we keep at a time when the people of Africa and the rest of the world have begun to see us as a nation working hard to restore democracy and good governance.”
The MDC said the Iranian leader had made his reputation as a “war monger, trampler of human rights, an executioner of those with dissenting voices and a leader of questionable legitimacy” noting his controversial electoral victory in last year’s presidential polls.
“While we understand Mr Mugabe’s shared values with Ahmadinejad, whose legitimacy is in tatters, we call upon the inclusive government to desist from associating our peace loving country with despots,” the MDC added.
Zimbabwe has enjoyed good relations with Iran since 2002 when Western countries imposed sanctions on President Mugabe and his inner circle over alleged human rights violations.
President Mugabe, like Mr Ahmadinejad, is regarded as a despot by the West and usually takes advantage of any international fora to rail at his critics in the developed world.
The ZITF is a major annual event in Zimbabwe and will be used to gauge progress made by the new government to re-establish trade contacts with the rest of the world after years of isolation.