Zimbabwe President Emmerson Mnangagwa has opened up on the signing of the condolence book for the late long-ruling British monarch, Queen Elizabeth II, saying he initially refused to append his signature to it over the issue of economic sanctions imposed on the southern African country by the West.
The 79-year old ruling Zanu PF leader said, at first, he had refused to ink his signature to the condolence book until he received a formal invitation from the British Embassy in Harare to come to the embassy, and also at the instigation of his Foreign Affairs and International Trade Minister Fredrick Shava.
Mnangagwa told Zanu PF supporters in New York last Saturday that he felt that he could not sign the Queen’s book as this was akin to being ‘moved like small boys’ who pander to the whims and caprices of the erstwhile colonial masters.
According to the Zimbabwe septuagenarian, setting his foot on the British Embassy was going to contravene clauses of the embargo which does not allow him, and other ministers in his cabinet to travel to the UK.
“When the Queen passed on recently, I was invited to go and write my condolences at British Embassy in Harare. So, my Foreign Affairs Minister went there and he told me that the Australian and Canadian ambassadors were there waiting for me to come,” Mnangagwa said.
“I then sent a message to the Foreign Affairs minister to come back because I was not going there. The reason is, the United Kingdom imposed sanctions on us, and we cannot go to the United Kingdom because of sanctions. So, I said in terms of international conventions, the Embassy is a territory of the United Kingdom, so I didn’t want to breach those sanctions“.
“I said Zimbabwe can never walk to the United Kingdom, or to the Embassy, but the Head of State, the personification of Zimbabwe cannot, still I cannot violate the territory of the United Kingdom, at the time we were in Angola”.
Mnangagwa also went on, saying:
“We insisted until we got a formal invitation saying that I can go to the embassy and that I will not be contravening anything. He (Shava) persuaded me to go, I then went to the embassy to sign the book of condolences. Thereafter, I received a formal invitation to the funeral.”
Zimbabwe was slapped with sanctions from the West after the Zanu PF Government, then led by the late Robert Mugabe, embarked on a controversial land reform programme during the dawn of the 21st century.
Like his predecessor, Mnangagwa has continued to label the sanctions as scapegoats for the economic problems bedeviling his country.