HARARE – Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai yesterday suffered humiliation at the hands of security agents when police refused to play him the national anthem in the absence of President Robert Mugabe.
Tsvangirai was officiating at the Mid Term Plan implementation progress report in Harare when the police delivered him the big snub.
Mugabe did not attend the MidTerm Plan festivities because he was opening the Diamond Mining conference, which kicked off in the resort town of Victoria Falls at the same time.
“This is an embarrassment to the country when people want to privatise a national anthem. National flags and national anthems do not belong to one political party but to the whole nation,” an enraged Economic Planning and Investment Promotion minister, Tapiwa Mashakada told the gathering.
“Why should people pontificate about playing a national anthem? This is a disgrace to the country.”
Mashakada, whose ministry was hosting the launch, said the behaviour by the police band reflects the moral and political fabric of the nation as the culture of fear cultivated by Zanu PF is permeating into the blood of citizens.
“It is treasonous and it happened in front of international delegates. They have embarrassed the country,” he told journalists after the launch.
“I do not think our president would have joy if he hears that is what has happened. I am sure he is going to take stern measures to rein on such kind of unpatriotic behaviour,” Mashakada said.
He claimed the police band had defied orders from their commissioner general Augustine Chihuri “who ordered them to play the anthem”.
Yesterday’s derisory snub was the latest to be delivered to Tsvangirai by security agents who have brazenly showed him lack of respect and recognition.
The MDC leader, before and after the consummation of the coalition government, has either been addressed in disparaging terms or told he does not “fit” the presidential bill by securocrats.
Defence Forces commander, Constantine Chiwenga, in 2009 declared that the army will never allow Tsvangirai and the MDC to take over the country, even if it wins an election, because it is “foreign driven”.
At national functions, security chiefs have refused to salute him in actions resonating with the infamous straight jacket office declaration by the late Vitalis Gava Zvinavashe.
In the run-up to the 2002 presidential elections, Chiwenga’s predecessor, Zvinavashe, vowed that the defence force would never allow a non-participant in the 1970s independence war to take over the country.
Zvinavashe said the army could not salute anyone who had not fought the in the war that brought independence, describing the Presidency as a “straitjacket” job.
Sylvester Nguni, minister of state in Vice President Joice Mujuru’s office, who launched the implementation progress report on her behalf, was surprised by the police band’s actions.
“I still do not know why they refused to play the national anthem, which is played at any national event. I do not, however, think there was any instruction for them not to play and there is no law like that,” he told the Daily News.
Tsvangirai, Deputy Prime Minister Thokozani Khupe, Mashakada, deputy minister for Economic Planning Samuel Undenge, Harare mayor Muchadeyi Masunda, Nguni and other dignitaries stood up akimbo and waited for more than three minutes for the police band to play the national anthem.
After delegates had observed moments of silence waiting for the band it became apparent that the band was not going to play.
Desire Sibanda, permanent secretary in the ministry of Economic Planning, who was the master of ceremony at the occasion, apologised for the no show and asked dignitaries to sit down saying the band would play later after they had sorted themselves out, as tension in the giant Harare International Conference Centre mounted.
More than an hour later, when Tsvangirai was about to deliver his remarks, Sibanda announced that the police band was ready to play to play but Mashakada would have none of it.
He grabbed the microphone from Sibanda and said there will be no singing of the national anthem and proceeded to introduce the PM to take up to the podium.
“We can skip that stage, it has already passed,” he said. – Bridget Mananavire and John Kachembere