POLITICAL analysts yesterday said the booing suffered by President Robert Mugabe from a group of unidentified activists in Zambia on Saturday was a big dent on Zimbabwe’s international image, as it comes shortly before the veteran politician assumes chairmanship of the African Union.
A group of more than 100 demonstrators besieged the plushy Radisson Blu Hotel in Lusaka, where Mugabe was staying, calling on him to retire. Mugabe, 91 next month, is the present Sadc chair.
He was in Zambia to attend the inauguration of new President Edgar Lungu held in Lusaka yesterday.
“It’s really embarrassing to be told to leave by your neighbours and friends when you have travelled all the way purportedly in solidarity with them,” analyst, Maxwell Saungweme said.
“Zambians made it clear that Mugabe was coming to witness free and fair elections and a leadership transition which he is against at home.”
He added: “It sends the message to Mugabe’s party and the government that everyone, including Zimbabwe’s friends and neighbours, now believe all is not well in Zanu PF and the government.”
The demonstration is a complete change of fortune to the rousing welcome Mugabe received three months ago when he attended late Zambian leader Michael Sata’s burial.
However, other analysts believe the booing was inconsequential.
“The demonstration was of limited consequences because it had no specific demand or reasons why it was held,” Takura Zhangazha said.
“The situation is compounded by Zambian opposition political parties’ failure to take responsibility for the demonstration and hence for now no one is taking responsibility for it.”
Midlands State University lecturer Nhamo Mhiripiri concurred: “It would have been reasonable if the demonstrators had articulated what they really wanted or if they had any political agenda.
“It also remains unclear how Zambians could demonstrate against Mugabe whom they adulated less than three months ago at Sata’s burial.”
Mhiripiri further said that the demonstrations could be read in the context that no leader was universally accepted.
“We do not have a universal acceptance of a leader and, therefore, it does not surprise me that there could be people somewhere who organise a demonstration for one reason or another,” he said.
Mugabe has over the years enjoyed a warm reception in most African countries he has visited and is revered as an international statesman who stood up to imperialism.