Zimbabwe’s minister of foreign affairs has defended President Robert Mugabe’s attendance at the G-20 summit which started today in Turkey saying the Zimbabwean strongman is the only leader who could speak for Africa.
Zimbabwe is not a member of the forum which brings together 19 major world economies and the European Union but Mugabe was invited by Turkey nonetheless.
South Africa is the only African country on the panel and President Jacob Zuma is attending the meeting.
Mugabe is one of the non-member head of state invited to the summit along with Macky Sall of Senegal. The latter was invited as current head of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD).
Zimbabwe’s Foreign affairs minister, Simbarashe Mumbengegwi, said Mugabe was also invited as current chair of the African Union (AU).
“President Mugabe is the Chair of the African Union. He is the only person who is authorised to speak on behalf of the entire continent,” Mumbengegwi told state media from Turkey.
“Therefore, he has been invited to participate in this G20 summit because the G20 would like to hear the voice of Africa.
“And during President Mugabe’s tenure of office as Chair of the African Union, he and only he can speak on behalf of the entire continent.
“Therefore what he was to say in the deliberations of this summit will be taken very, very seriously as the voice of Africa.”
Mugabe has drawn criticism for his numerous foreign trips.
The opposition says the country cannot afford the constant travelling with an economy battered by a crisis that has lasted nearly 15 years.
The 91-year-old was recently in India for another summit where he was caught on camera struggling to stay on his feet.
He barely avoided tumbling to the ground after his host swiftly came to his aid.
After returning from India, he was soon off to Tanzania for the inauguration of that country’s new president.
Mumbengegwi however, said as AU chairman, Mugabe had to be present at the G20 expected to be attended by Western leaders critical of his rule such as US President Barack Obama and the UK’s David Cameron.
“This is a Summit of the G20, that is 20 of the most industrialised countries who have set up their own grouping to look mainly at various economic issues,” said the minister.
“Now, there is only one African country which is a member — that is South Africa.
“However, there is an arrangement that the Chair of the African Union is also invited in that capacity so that they can speak on behalf of the entire continent.”
Mugabe met Zuma and Senegalese leader, Macky Sall, on Saturday to agree Africa’s position ahead of the summit.
“We had a harmonisation meeting before the opening of the summit,” Sall told reporters after the meeting.
“It is necessary that the positions we defend are harmonised on the issues to be raised from tomorrow (Sunday, such as), growth, employment, investment, migration and climate change.”
Chinese President Xi Jinping, Brazil’s Dilma Rousseff as well as the leaders Mexico, South Korea, and Australia arrived Saturday for the summit which will be held in the resort town of Antalya.