Britain's Queen Elizabeth yesterday wished Zimbabwe a happy independence and wished her former colony best wishes in the coming year.
The 90-year-old British monarch sent the message to the people of Zimbabwe from Buckingham Palace yesterday, the day the southern African country gained its independence from British colonial rule 36 years ago.
The Queen, who has entered the record books as Britain’s longest-reigning monarch after surpassing the reign of her great-great grandmother, Queen Victoria, did not acknowledge Zimbabwe president, Robert Mugabe, in her statement, in an uncharacteristic move by a head of State wishing well for another country.
“It gives me great pleasure to send the people of Zimbabwe my congratulations on the celebration of your National Day, together with my best wishes for the coming year,” Queen Elizabeth II said in a terse statement.
Mugabe, 92, who has ruled Zimbabwe since 1980, likes the British Queen who has been on the throne for 63 years, but not so much the politicians at 10 Downing Street.
In 2009, Mugabe, Africa’s oldest president, was stripped of a knighthood conferred on him by Queen Elizabeth II in 1994.
The Zimbabwean leader accuses the former colonial power of interfering in his country’s domestic affairs.
The Queen’s message is significant as relations between the two countries have entered a new phase, with Britain and the European Union suspending most sanctions first imposed on Zimbabwe in 2002, in protest against human rights abuses, electoral theft, and violations of democracy under Mugabe’s rule.
In broadcast to a packed and carefully orchestrated ceremony in a football stadium in the capital, Harare, to mark 36 years of independence, Mugabe said he will not brook any interference in his country’s domestic affairs.
“We should always remember that our independence did not come on a silver platter,” Mugabe thundered yesterday.
Many people arrived in buses hired by government to ferry residents of poor suburbs to the festivities, while others walked to the Chinese-built stadium in a nation that remains all but bankrupt and isolated internationally, and life for most Zimbabweans remains paralysed.
The commemorations come as the governing Zanu PF battles to ease mounting internal political tensions that threaten its stability and to revive an economy ravaged by nearly two decades of economic and political crisis. daily news