MDC-T snubs summit delegates

HARARE – MDC-T Cabinet ministers were on Saturday conspicuous by their absence at the Victoria Falls Airport when visiting Heads of State and Government and their delegations from the Comesa region were arriving.

It is understood that a number of MDC-T ministers had been assigned to accompany visiting delegations from the airport to their hotels in the resort town ahead of the official opening of the 13th Comesa Summit yesterday.

However, none of the ministers turned up and a potentially embarrassing situation was only averted after other ministers who went to the airport of their own volition were hastily asked to fill in the gaps.

Apart from Zanu-PF members of Cabinet, the only other senior Government official at the airport was Education Minister David Coltart (MDC), who was attached to ousted Madagascar President Marc Ravalomanana.

"Several ministers from all political parties were told that they would be attached to specific delegations and they would accompany these to their hotels after they were welcomed into the country by Vice President (Joice) Mujuru.

"We had a mini-crisis when it was discovered that none of the honourable men and women from MDC-T were in attendance to carry out this important State function.

"In the end we had to ask other ministers who were at the airport to do the duties of their friends who were absent," said an official with the Protocol Department.

MDC-T spokesman Nelson Chamisa, speaking from Harare last night, said he could not comment on behalf of other ministers and was not present at the summit.

Some MDC-T Cabinet ministers have been in Victoria Falls for the duration of the summit and organ policy meetings that preceded it.

Interestingly, on Tuesday, Deputy Prime Minister Thokozani Khupe also appeared to be shying away from delegates who flew in for the Comesa summit.

At a reception held for delegates at the Boma restaurant, DPM Khupe was seen sitting away from the delegates.

When asked by Government officials to join the delegates, she reportedly replied that she was in Victoria Falls on "private business". She only moved after senior State officials implored her to do so.

Meanwhile, a High Court decision last Friday barring the Ministry of Media, Information and Publicity, and the Media and Information Commission from accrediting journalists could inadvertently have led to a number of media practitioners failing to cover the Comesa summit.

According to security officials who were in charge of accrediting journalists at the summit venue, they turned away several people because they did not have accreditation from the State.

"The way we function is that we need to see an accreditation card from a State authority before we can let anyone cover an event that involves heads of state.

"So we had to turn away people who came to us without accreditation cards because we cannot give security clearance to people who the State does not know are operating as journalists in the country.

"We just follow our jobs. If there is a change in orders we will follow that. As it is, there appears to be a vacuum but there is nothing that we can do about it."

To get accreditation to cover the summit, journalists were required to first produce a Zimbabwean Press card.