Harare (New Ziana) – Foreign Affairs and International Trade Minister Frederick Shava will represent President Emmerson Mnangagwa at the funeral of Queen Elizabeth II in London next week, a senior government official said on Thursday.
An invitation to the funeral of the longest serving British monarch, who died last week, was extended to President Mnangagwa, but he will not be able to attend due to other commitments.
Deputy Chief Secretary in the Office of the President and Cabinet George Charamba, told New Ziana that; “The Foreign Minister (Shava) is attending for the President, who is scheduled to leave for the United Nations General Assembly on the day.”
Earlier, the British embassy in Zimbabwe had dismissed as fake a letter purportedly written by the British government denying President Mnangagwa an invitation to the funeral.
The fake letter had insinuated that President Mnangagwa, through Shava, had solicited an invitation to the funeral, which was denied on grounds including travel restrictions against the President.
President Mnangagwa is, however, not under any travel restrictions to the United Kingdom.
“President Mnangagwa has been invited to attend the funeral of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II at Westminster Abbey on Monday. The letter below is fake,” the embassy tweeted.
The funeral is expected to be attended by several world leaders, including Heads of State from across the Commonwealth which the Queen served as head, and other foreign dignitaries.
The majority of leaders have been asked to arrive on commercial flights and told they will be bussed en masse from a site in west London.
Analysts contend that President Mnangagwa’s invitation to the funeral points to improved relations between the two countries, as a direct result of the country’s engagement and re-engagement agenda.
According to the BBC, several other countries, including Syria, Venezuela, Afghanistan, Belarus and Myanmar have not been invited to the funeral while others including North Korea and Nicaragua have been invited to send only ambassadors.
It was only last week that President Mnangagwa met former British Prime Minister Tony Blair in Kigali, Rwanda, an interaction which he said yielded positive outcomes.
President Mnangagwa said Blair was now striking a conciliatory tone and was more inclined to seeing relations between the two countries further improve.
During the interaction, Blair also applauded President Mnangagwa’s efforts in ensuring food security in Zimbabwe and the continent at large.
It was the first time a Zimbabwean leader met Blair, since Harare and London fell out at the turn of the millennium when the former PM orchestrated sanctions against Zimbabwe.