Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe was sworn in for a new five-year term yesterday in a massive stadium inauguration that was boycotted by his election rival.
Opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai insists the July 31 vote that returned the 89-year-old to power was rigged and shunned the swearing-in.
The event took place at the country’s largest 60,000-seater sports stadium and around 40 leaders were invited.
“It’s going to be a grand occasion, no doubt about that,” said Simon Khaya-Moyo, chairman of Mugabe’s ZANU-PF party.
A constitutional court ruling confirmed Mugabe as president and declared the elections “free, fair and credible” and that the results “reflected the free will of the people of Zimbabwe.”
However, Tsvangirai’s spokesman said the opposition leader “can’t attend a robber’s party.”
“Expecting Tsvangirai to attend the inauguration is like expecting a victim of robbery to attend a party hosted by the robber,” Tsvangirai’s spokesman Luke Tamborinyoka said.
The inauguration had been delayed after Tsvangirai challenged the poll results in a petition to the constitutional court.
“We are excited about the inauguration ceremony,” Rugare Gumbo, spokesman for ZANU-PF, said. “Our win represents the defeat of neo-colonialism and tomorrow we are celebrating not only President Mugabe’s inauguration but the victory of Zimbabwe, Africa and progressive forces across the world.”
Unlike previous investitures which were low-key, the ceremony was high-profile in what was seen as a show of power designed to confer legitimacy amid persistent questions around the vote which extended Mugabe’s 33-year grip on power.
The organizers said the event would be similar to Mugabe’s inauguration as prime minister in 1980.
A music concert included artists from South Africa, Zambia and Jamaica — whose iconic Bob Marley played at Zimbabwe’s independence event.
“This inauguration is being projected as the crowning of a victory of a struggle for the past 13 years against big Western powers,” said Eldred Masunungure, a political scientist from the University of Zimbabwe.
There is however also an “unintended meaning,” he said. “It can be read as a farewell event for Mugabe. It reminds one of Jesus’ Last Supper.”