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Zim inauguration to be public holiday

The MDC will boycott the event on Thursday, with guests including former leaders of Botswana and Namibia.

FILE: President Robert Mugabe delivers a speech at the National Heroes Acre in Harare on 12 August 2013 during Heroes Day celebrations. Picture: Jekesai Njikizana/AFP

HARARE - Zimbabwe has declared Thursday a public holiday as authorities prepare for a grand independence-style party to mark President Robert Mugabe's inauguration for his seventh consecutive term in office.

Around 30 heads of state, both former and serving, have been invited to the event, which is to be boycotted by the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).

The authorities are providing buses to ferry supporters from all Zimbabwe's 10 provinces.

Free trains are being offered from eastern Manicaland and southern Matabeleland provinces.

The glittering inauguration ceremony will be held at Harare's National Sports Stadium and at least 30 heads of state, both serving and retired, have been invited.

Some foreign dignitaries have already arrived and names on the guest list include the former presidents of Botswana, Namibia and Tanzania.

The authorities appear to be making every effort to recreate the feel of the 1980 independence celebrations, when a much younger Mugabe became the country's first black leader as head of the Zanu-PF party.

State radio is reporting that a band from Jamaica has even been invited to perform at the celebrations, just as Bob Marley did 33 years ago.

MDC BOYCOTT

The outgoing prime minister, the MDC's Morgan Tsvangirai, says he won't be attending.

Tsvangirai maintains the results of the 31 July poll were fraudulent.

Tsvangirai's spokesperson Luke Tamborinyoka says the MDC leader hasn't been officially invited to the inauguration ceremony, claiming it would be like asking a victim of theft to attend a party thrown by the robber.

He described the event as "a robber's party."

On Tuesday, Zimbabwe's Constitutional Court dismissed Tsvangirai's challenge to the July 31 poll results and said the election was free, fair and credible.

Meanwhile, it was reported by the Zimbabwean News Day newspaper on Wednesday that former defence minister and co-founder of Zanu-PF has died after spending two weeks in hospital.

Nkala was the defence minister at the time of the Gukurahundi massacre, when 20,000 Ndebele people were killed by the Zimbabwean army in the late 1980s.

The cause of death of the 81-year-old remains unclear.