Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe will not attend South Africa’s ruling African National Congress (ANC) centenary celebrations this weekend because the veteran ruler is in the Far East on holiday, state media said on Friday.
Vice President Joyce Mujuru would stand-in for the Zimbabwean leader who rarely misses international gatherings where he is invited.
“The President who started his annual leave recently and who is in the Far East is unable to personally attend these important celebrations, to which he was invited,” President Mugabe’s spokesperson George Charamba said.
“Mujuru will be accompanied by senior party officials. She is expected back in the country mid-next week.”
The Zimbabwean leader was the only head of state at the inauguration of Democratic Republic of Congo President Joseph Kabila in December.
President Mugabe’s decision not to attend the celebrations follows unexpected criticism against the ANC by his Zanu-PF on Thursday.
Zanu-PF secretary for administration Didymus Mutasa told local state radio that the ANC had failed Africa with its approach to DR Congo and Libyan conflicts.
President Mugabe and former South African President Nelson Mandela had a major falling out in 1998 after Zimbabwe, Namibia and Angola sent troops to defend the late DRC President Laurent Kabila who was then under siege from rebels.
The Zimbabwean leader had used his role as chairman of the Southern African Development Community’s peace and security organ to intervene but the move was challenged by president Mandela.
South Africa refused to deploy any troops and this led to several clashes between the two leaders.
President Mugabe has also repeatedly attacked South Africa for voting for a United Nations resolution that paved the way for Nato’s intervention in Libya.