Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad arrived in Zimbabwe on Thursday afternoon for a two-day state visit which the Movement for Democratic Change formation led by Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai called a “colossal political scandal.”
President Robert Mugabe and other ZANU-PF officials welcomed Mr. Ahmadinejad at Harare International Airport. The Iranian leader is to officially open the Zimbabwe International Trade Fair showcase in Bulawayo on Friday.
The Tsvangirai MDC grouping called Mr. Ahmadinejad a war monger, a trampler of human rights and an executioner of dissenting voices.
Hosting the Iranian leader, the MDC declared in a statement earlier this week, "will definitely send a wrong message about the kind of company that we keep at a time when the people of Africa and the rest of the world have begun to see us as a nation working hard to restore democracy and good governance."
Sources in the party said neither Mr. Tsvangirai nor any other senior officials of his MDC grouping would attend the opening of the trade fair by Mr. Ahmadinejad. The party said Mr. Tsvangirai would be out of the country, but MDC sources said a boycott was in effect.
A bilateral Zimbabwean-Iranian commission issued a statement saying Mr. Ahmadinejad’s visit signaled that both nations are committed to promoting peace and stability in their respective regions, and that he and Mr. Mugabe will sign bilateral agreements.
Commenting on the visit, Director Nicole Fritze of the South African Litigation Center told VOA Studio 7 reporter Ntungamili Nkomo that Iran has little to give Zimbabwe in terms of development aid.
Tehran, in addition, has declined to extend new lines of credit to Zimbabwe until it settles a US$5 million debt, sources said. News reports and sources informed on the bilateral discussions said that in a meeting Wednesday in Harare Iranian officials demanded the debt be paid down before Tehran can extend further financial aid.
Iran supplied agricultural equipment and broadcasting equipment to the government led by Mr. Mugabe that preceded the current inclusive government.
Zimbabwe Coalition on Debt and Development Deputy Chairman Masimba Kuchera told VOA reporter Gibbs Dube that it is ironic Harare is being called upon to settle such debts when program quality at the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation has declined and many parts of the nation are facing hunger this year.