Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai welcomes dictator Robert Mugabe to the VIP tent at the beginning of Independence Day Celebrations in Harare today. He looks too jovial considering the bruising battles and humiliations he and his ministers have been suffering at the hands of Mugabe in the last couple of weeks, do you not think?
Dictator Robert Mugabe gave the shortest speech of his career at the Independence Celebrations in Harare earlier today and his characteristic attacks on Britain and the West were missing.
Sources close to the dictator say he wanted it "over and one with quickly" because of the presence of Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, and other MDC officials, which ZANU PF felt "sullied" the event.
Besides Morgan Tsvangirai, others in attendance included Mavambo.Kusile.Dawn president Dr Simba Makoni, the vice presidents and deputy prime ministers and ministers from all the parties in the coalition government.
Mugabe, together with his wife (who was dressed in yellow) was accompanied into the stadium by the Service Chiefs, who were in full ceremonial dress. He inspected the Guard of Honour, after which a soldier, as usual, asked permission for the soldiers to do their march past, which the dictator granted.
After the march past, Mugabe then lit the flame of Independence and took his place in the VIP tent.
The surprising thing is that there was no official role for any MDC officials in the proceedings today. The Master of Ceremonies was one of the most hated man in urban Zimbabwe today, Ignatius Chombo, who is a ZANU PF minister from Mugabe's home area.He is the one man directly responsible for the breakdown of urban services and cholera can quite comfortably be called his baby.
Effectively, then, the other partners in the coalition government were frozen out from the proceedings. Tsvangirai was not given a role to play except to listen to Mugabe. And, like I said, the proceedings were presided over by Ignatius Chombo.
Tsvangirai sat next to vice president Msika in the VIP tent (having arrived well ahead of the dictator) and the two chatted amicably all the way through.
As I write this, the traditional Independence Trophy soccer match is going on and I am not sure whether any of the VIPs are still at the stadium watching the event.
Notable also today was the set up, which, for the first time since independence, put the marching soldiers and the independence celebrations at some distance from the VIP tent. Most people read this to mean that the organisers wanted to keep the armed forces as far away from the Prime Minister as possible, for fear that any salutes could be mistaken for salutes to him!
The Prime Minister did not get a chance to interact with any of the defence forces present at the proceedings.
The issue of the saluting of the Prime Minister would never have taken such a high profile were it not for the MDC themselves. They seem very keen to have soldiers salute Tsvangirai.
On the day he was sworn in as Prime Minister, for instance, I was in my 9th floor office in the city centre when MDC supporters in a pick up truck drove past, singing loudly, "Mucha musaluta chete Morgan" meaning "You will salute Morgan whether you like it or not."
I genuinely believe that had the MDC not made a song and dance out of the whole thing, it probably would not have crossed the minds of the Service Chiefs to make this an issue.
So, that was Independence Day in Harare today. Nothing extraordinary took place and it was over very quickly, much quicker than it has ever been.