By Alex Bell
SW Radio Africa
03 April 2014
Robert Mugabe has been accused of making a diplomatic misstep by boycotting this week’s European Union (EU) – Africa summit in Belgium, over the refusal by the EU to grant Grace Mugabe a visa.
The summit, which has seen 30 African and European leaders come together to discuss trade and policy, comes to an end on Thursday.
Mugabe, who refused to join the meeting after Grace was denied a visa to join him, had tried to stimulate an African Union (AU) snub of the summit, but to no avail.
South Africa’s Jacob Zuma also did not attend, although spokespeople for the ANC leader would not link his non-attendance to Mugabe’s boycott threat.
EU Ambassador to Zimbabwe Aldo Dell’Ariccia said Mugabe ‘miscalculated’ his influence, saying the move to boycott the summit was a “diplomatic hiccup”.
“This comes as a major diplomatic setback for Zimbabwe. But for us, the process of re-engagement continues and we hope that we are going to have our relations normalized soon,” Dell’Ariccia was quoted by the NewsDay newspaper as saying.
Mugabe and his wife remain targeted with EU restrictive measures, which bar, among other things, European travel. The rules were bent to accommodate Mugabe’s invitation to the Brussels based summit. But the EU did not make the same exceptions for Grace, on the basis that she had no role to play during the meeting.
But the 90 year old ZANU PF leader was left angered by this decision, along with the EU’s failure to invite his Sudanese counterpart Omar al-Bashir, who is wanted by the International Criminal Court for genocide. Mugabe, through his spokespeople, accused the EU of trying to dictate the makeup of African delegations.