Mugabe visa row escalates

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FOREIGN Affairs secretary Joey Bimha told Parliament yesterday that the African Union (AU) and Sadc had been tasked to demand that First Lady Grace Mugabe be given a visa so that she can visit Belgium.

VENERANDA LANGA
SENIOR REPORTER

The First Lady wants to accompany her husband to the European Union (EU)-Africa Summit in Brussels set for April 2 and 3. Only President Robert Mugabe has been invited for the summit.

Bimha told the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Foreign Affairs that the fate of the First Lady’s visa would be decided in Brussels before the summit opens next week.

“Mugabe did submit his delegation and we discovered that the First Lady had not been issued with a visa and we brought the issue before Sadc and the AU and a committee has been mandated to raise the issue in Brussels to say if the EU does not issue her with a visa then they will recommend that the summit be postponed,” he said.

“Sadc and African leaders have taken a decision that the EU cannot cherry pick on who will be invited and the EU had not invited President Mugabe, but had invited the government.”

It has emerged that the EU has also left out other AU member countries such as Eritrea, Sudan, and Saharawi Arab Republic.

Bimha said EU’s snub to other AU members will also be discussed in Brussels.

Bimha was originally invited by the committee to give an update on the Sadc uni-visa pilot project that will enable citizens of members of the bloc to travel freely within the region.

He said if the uni-visa system proves successful it would be implemented as a trade promotion and regional integration mechanism.
Bimha dispelled fears among MPs that Botswana was about to leave Sadc and join the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (Comesa).

“Botswana hates Comesa and prefers Sadc programmes. I do not see Botswana leaving Sadc,” he said.

“We may have political problems, but economically we are working together.”

He added the regional bloc was facing trade challenges since the World Trade Organisation says a country can only be a member of one customs union.

Some Sadc member states belong to different customs unions like Comesa and the Southern Africa Customs Union.