"We Did Not Salute Tsvangrai" - Service Chiefs
General Sibanda of the Army shakes Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai's hand during Defence Forces Day ceremonies at Harare stadium on Tuesday. Air Marshal Perance Shiri can be seen behind the General saluting General Mujuru. Notice how Tsvangirai half-rises in his seat in respect as he shakes General Sibanda's hand.
Harare, Zimbabwe, 13 August 2009
I did promise you that I would give you an update on the raging issue of Tsvangirai and the Defence Forces Commanders.
Unfortunately, Blogger went down some time ago and has only just returned, so I could not post anything at all.
The Service Chiefs themselves have confirmed to people who asked them that they did not salute Morgan Tsvangirai. It was alleged that Air Marshal Perance Shiri and General Philip Sibanda of the Army had saluted the Prime Minister.
According to sources close to one of the two, here is the true story:
Tsvangirai was seated next to ZANU PF Kingmaker Retired General Solomon Mujuru at the start of proceedings. Mujuru was in an expansive mood, explaining to Tsvangirai how these events (Defence Forces Day) were coordinated when he reigned supreme in the army, before his retirement.
The Service Chiefs arrived and they had to greet Mujuru, who was sitting with his wife, the Vice-president Joice Mujuru.
The service chiefs did not salute the Vice-president. But they saluted the General, who still commands huge respect in the army.
In the photo above, a salute to the General can be seen clearly from Shiri, who is behind the Army General Sibanda, already shaking Tsvangirai's hand.
General Chiwengwa also shook Tsvangirai's hand but took the safe route of not saluting anyone, not even General Mujuru.
As Chiwengwa went to sit down, he made to sit with Shiri and Sibanda, but was literally dragged by the coat tails by Defence Minister Emmerson Mnangagwa, with whom he then sat.
Tsvangirai himself was today said to be very upset at "people who play up this salute thing." He feels they are simply looking to start a fight between him and the Defence Forces and that the constant speculation over salutes will only harden their stance.
It is funny, is it not, that in the photo above, you can clearly see that it s instead Tsvangirai who is half-rising out of his seat, a "doffing the hat" gesture that clearly shows he is giving the Generals the respect they always said he did not have for them!!