President Emmerson Mnangagwa, Thursday bulked out of a national prayer meeting organized by the Zimbabwe Council of Churches (ZCC) in the process avoided being in the same room with his arch-political enemy MDC Alliance leader Nelson Chamisa.
Chamisa had earlier in the morning indicated his unwillingness to attend but later appeared reportedly after being arm-twisted by clerics behind the gathering.
The event’s official program showed Mnangagwa was supposed to be the keynote speaker but the Zanu PF leader changed his mind at the last minute.
“He (Mnanngagwa) is attending a meeting in Borrowdale. He will be on his way just now,” a source within Mnangagwa’s entourage told Zim Morning Post.
However with everything set including the podium and his security protocol in place, Mnangagwa was in no show.
The President’s spokesperson George Charamba denied his boss had avoided Chamisa.
“Well, how can he snub Chamisa when it was not a Chamisa event?
“You are actually telling me new information that it was a Chamisa event,” said Charamba.
Chamisa snubbed a meeting of last year’s presidential candidates at State House convened by Mnangagwa, early this week arguing it was a “tea gathering”. The MDC Alliance leader has demanded a meeting between him and Mnangagwa that does not include “people who had no problem with the election outcome.”
Charamba claimed Mnangagwa had been forced to change his itinerary because of an “emergency” associated with his ongoing continental diplomatic blitz.
“Well, we had to re-arrange plans and the President and ZANU PF was well represented by the Defence minister Oppah Muchinguri and party secretary for administration Obert Mpofu.
“He is also leaving for Addis Ababa (Ethiopia) and he has a lot of bilateral meetings,” Charamba said.
Had Mnangagwa attended this event it would have been the first time for the two leaders to be in the same room in the post election period.
In his address to the church leaders Chamisa said he was ready to meet President Mnangagwa but as Zanu PF leader.
“If there is a room here even at this hotel I am ready to meet President Mnangagwa. I do not say President because our dispute has been resolved but because he is president of his party and I am president of mine,” said Chamisa.
He added that he was now leader of a party with Members of Parliament “who are unable to sleep in their homes.”
Hordes of opposition lawmakers and councilors are on the run with police on their trail over their alleged involvement in the violent protests that rocked the country last month.
Chamisa rejected last year’s poll outcome in which the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission declared Mnangagwa winner by 50.6%. The opposition leader then petitioned the Constitutional Court in a bid to have the result overturned but the application was thrown out for lack of evidence. Although claiming to respect the court’s decision, Chamisa maintains he won the presidential poll urging Mnangagwa to “do the right thing” euphemistically implying the Zanu PF frontman must hand over power to him.