Iran's Ahmadinejad In Zimbabwe: Tsvangirai Denounces Him As A "Warmonger".
Mugabe's feared bodyguard at the airport for the arrival of the Iranian president. These are the guys who beat you up if you do not pull off the road quickly enough for their liking to allow Mugabe's motorcade to pass.President Ahmadinejad of Iran gives the MDC wave to crowds gathered at the Harare International Airport earlier today, 22 April 2010The Iranian president inspects the Guard of Honour upon his arrival in Zimbabwe earlier today, 22 April 2010
Harare, Zimbabwe, 22 April 2010Iranian President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is in Zimbabwe today and is already talking tough against America and the West (The Imperialists). The street poles in Harare are plastered with pictures of the Iranian President and those of Mugabe, with the flags of the two countries flying on all major roads, including the main road from the Harare International Airport.
Ahmadinejad is in Zimbabwe to open the Zimbabwe International Trade Fair. This year, the Fair has seen a massive influx of South African companies. Official figures show that the South African contingent far outnumbers other countries and this is despite the presence of the new Empowerment laws in Zimbabwe, which compel companies to sell 51% of their shareholding to local, black Zimbabweans or risk losing it all.
The attraction for South African companies is understandable against the background of a Zimbabwe that has now adopted the United States Dollar as its currency. The Rand, as I mentioned in a previous post, has now all but disappeared from circulation in Zimbabwe and where it is seen, it is being traded at an unrealistic ballpark figure of one US Dollar to ten rands. The actual rate is just above seven rands for a single US Dollar.
Added to this, Zimbabwe's pricing system is skewed. There is still a hyperinflationary mentality in this country. This explains the "dismaying" rise in inflation to double digits in US Dollar terms as recently revealed by Finance Minister Tendai Biti (who is also the MDC-Tsvangirai Secretary General).
Mugabe and the Iranian President share a pariah status where the West is concerned and it is no surprise that he has been asked to come and visit his comrade in Zimbabwe. The surprise, though, is the visit (also official State Visit) by Ahmadinejad to Uganda. At one point, Yoweri Museveni was the darling of the donor community and the West. Bill Clinton paid a state visit to Uganda when he was president and the Ugandan leader was considered one of a new breed of enlightened leaders in Africa. (I still rate Jakaya Kikwete of Tanzania as the most progressive of all African leaders at the moment).
Quite unnecessarily, the Zimbabwe opposition, the MDC-Tsvangirai, which is now supping with the devil using a very short spoon, issued a rabid denunciation of the visit by the Iranian leader calling him a "war-monger, a trampler of human rights, an executioner".
The MDC's statement says "hobnobbing with dubious political leaders confirms stereotypes that we (Zimbabwe) are a banana republic."
The real interest in Zimbabwe by Iran, of course, goes beyond the mere fact that both countries face Western sanctions. Zimbabwe has huge amounts of uranium deposits, which the Iranians have signed a deal with Mugabe to extract.
Iran is also hoping to make religious inroads into Zimbabwe's largely Christian population.
Earlier today, as I drove to work, Zimbabwe radio was broadcasting a message from an organisation calling itself The Muslim Students Association of Zimbabwe, calling on youths to turn out in their thousands at the airport to welcome the Iranian president.
Apart from opening the Trade Fair, Ahmadinejad will also tour a textiles factory funded by Iranians as well as a Mazda vehicle assembly plant.
The Iranians have been keen supporters of the Broadcasting company in Zimbabwe owned by the government, ZBC Holdings, which they have supported heavily with equipment. They have also established a tractor company in Zimbabwe.
Mugabe is hosting a state dinner at State House later on today for the visiting Iranian leader.
It will be interesting to see if Morgan Tsvangirai will attend the State function after his party has poured so much vitriol on the visiting president!!
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