Tag: Robert Mugabe

Mugabe lambasts West on visit to South Africa

Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe (L) and South Africa's President Jacob Zuma deliver a speech before the signing of various memorandum of understanding between the two countries at the Union Buildings in Pretoria on April 8 2015. (Pic: AFP)
Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe (L) and South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma deliver a speech before the signing of various memorandum of understanding between the two countries at the Union Buildings in Pretoria on April 8 2015. (Pic: AFP)

Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe on Wednesday launched a wide-ranging attack on Western colonisation in Africa and recent intervention in the Arab world, as he made his first state visit to South Africa in 21 years.

The veteran leader, 91, seized the opportunity of a televised press conference with President Jacob Zuma in Pretoria to lambast the United Nations Security Council, the United States and former colonial power Britain.

“We want a political environment in which we are not interfered with by outsiders and we become masters of ourselves in Africa,” Mugabe told reporters.

“We don’t think we are getting a fair deal at the United Nations.

“The five countries there who are permanent members… control the entire system.”

Mugabe said the developing world should stand together against the US, France and Britain, who make up three of five permanent members of the UN security council.

“They disturb the Arab world and leave (it) torn apart. Look at what they did to Libya,” he said, adding that US-led wars in Iraq revealed the “messy, reckless, brutal approach of the West”.

Mugabe, who is often accused of human rights abuses in Zimbabwe, said his state visit to Pretoria represented Africa’s victory over colonialists.

“Now we are our own people, and we have President Zuma here and President Mugabe in Zimbabwe – that is what what you fought for,” he said.

“African resources belong to Africa. Others may come to assist as our friends and allies but no longer as colonisers or oppressors, no longer as racists.”

Seeking investment

Mugabe provoked laughter from some officials when he spoke about a statue of British colonialist Cecil Rhodes in Cape Town that has been vandalised in recent student protests.

Rhodes is buried in Zimbabwe, which was called Rhodesia until independence in 1980 when Mugabe came to power.

“We are looking after the corpse. You have the statue of him,” Mugabe said. “I don’t know what you think we should do – dig him up? Perhaps his spirit might rise again.”

Mugabe, who was accompanied by his wife Grace, hopes his visit to South Africa will drum up foreign investment to revive his nation’s moribund economy.

Zimbabwe has been on a downturn for more than a decade due to low growth and high unemployment.

Zimbabwe’s economy entered a tailspin after the launch of controversial land reforms 14 years ago. By 2008, inflation had officially peaked at 231 million percent before the government stopped counting.

Zuma said a series of agreements signed on Wednesday would help both nations.

“The economies of the two countries are historically and inextricably linked,” he said. “Opportunities for deeper economic cooperation exist.”

Mugabe, who is the current chairman of the African Union, has visited South Africa in the past on working trips but has made no state visit since 1994.

His wife Grace is seen as one possible successor to her husband.

Former vice-president Joice Mujuru was long considered likely to take over, but she fell out with the veteran leader late last year and was sacked in December.

Mugabe will attend a bilateral business forum in Pretoria on Thursday.

Anger in Zimbabwe over ‘obscene’ Mugabe birthday bash

President Robert Mugabe cuts his birthday cake with his children and his wife Grace Mugabe during a 21st February Movement celebrations rally held in honor of his 89th birthday at Chipadze stadium in Bindura on March 2 2013. (Pic: AFP)
President Robert Mugabe cuts his birthday cake with his wife Grace Mugabe and his children during a 21st February Movement celebrations rally held in honour of his 89th birthday at Chipadze stadium in Bindura on March 2 2013. (Pic: AFP)

Zimbabwe’s main opposition party on Wednesday denounced as “obscene” a planned bash to celebrate President Robert Mugabe’s 91st birthday at a time the economy is on a downturn.

Mugabe turns 91 on Saturday and each year his Zanu-PF party lays on a lavish party using funds raised through public donations.

This year a belated feast is set for February 28 at a hotel in the prime resort town of Victoria Falls where guests will be served with game meat donated by a local farmer.

But the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), the country’s main opposition, wants the funds raised for the party to be used instead to fix infrastructure such as hospitals.

“All the money that has been collected to bankroll this obscene jamboree should be immediately channeled towards rehabilitating the collapsed public hospitals, clinics and rural schools in Matabeleland North province,” Obert Gutu, spokesperson for the MDC party said in a statement.

Victoria Falls is in Matabeleland North province where public facilities such as clinics and roads are in a state of disrepair for lack of funds – as elsewhere in rural Zimbabwe.

The town is home to one of the world’s largest waterfalls, the Victoria Falls.

Gutu also suggested that food donated for the birthday be “handed over” to charities for the disabled and to orphanages.

A businessman in Victoria Falls last week reportedly offered two elephants, two buffalos, two sable antelopes and five impala to be slaughtered for Mugabe’s birthday party.

He also promised Mugabe a lion trophy.

The businessman was reported by the state-owned Chronicle daily newspaper as saying the donation was “our way of supporting the function and to ensure a celebratory mood in our community as well.”

An all-night music concert in Harare this Friday will preface the celebrations which in the past have included a fashion show and a football match.

Africa’s oldest ruler Mugabe has been in power since 1980.

Robert Mugabe: Man of the people?

Robert Mugabe (Pic: AFP)
Robert Mugabe (Pic: AFP)

Africa’s leaders have appointed Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe to the largely ceremonial role of chairman of the 54-state African Union.

Mugabe, who has ruled Zimbabwe since 1980, is still respected by many for leading his country to independence from Britain. But critics believe the ‘president for life’ is out of touch with the people the African Union claims to represent.

Age is not a factor is the selection process for position for chairman of the Africa Union, but Africa is the world’s youngest continent, and at 90 years-old, Mugabe is among the estimated 5% of Africans who manage to live past their sixtieth birthday. In 2012, 85% of the population was under the age of 45, and life expectancy across the continent was 58 years.

Wealth Mugabe’s government has been widely blamed for mismanaging Zimbabwe’s economy, plunging the country into desperate times. Though the extent of his personal wealth is not known, his penchant for expensive and “insensitive” parties is well documented. Lavish celebrations for the leader’s 90th birthday were said to have cost Zimbabwe taxpayers $1m, despite around 70% of the population living in poverty.

Rights The African Union’s main objectives include the promotion of good governance, democracy and human rights. Under Mugabe’s rule, Zimbabwe has consistently ranked as one of the worst countries in the world for civil liberties. “The police use outdated and abusive laws to violate basic rights such as freedom of expression and assembly…” according to the Human Rights Watch 2015 World Report. “There has been no progress toward justice for human rights abuses and past political violence.”

Democracy Africa is home to half of the world’s longest serving leaders, including Mugabe, who was sworn in as Zimbabwe’s president for the seventh time in 2013. Protests against veteran leaders have recently flared in Democratic Republic of Congo and Burkina Faso, when president Blaise Compaore was forced to step down after a failed attempt to extend his 27-year rule. Zimbabwe’s first lady, Grace Mugabe, has indicated she may try to succeed her husband as leader one day.

Resources In his acceptance speech for his new role as chairman, Mugabe spoke of the need to guard Africa’s resources against foreign exploitation. Zimbabwe’s Zanu-PF party was accused of siphoning millions of dollars in profits from state-owned diamond mines to finance Mugabe’s re-election campaign in 2013. Officials deny the claims.

Women’s empowerment is the theme of the African Union summit being held in Addis Ababa. In an interview with Voice of America, Mugabe said it is “not possible that women can be at par with men.” It was unclear whether he was endorsing the status quo, or lamenting the lack of opportunities for African women. Either way, in a continent where gender discrimination remains widespread, it’s not the best choice of words.

Conflict Another of the African Union’s vows is to promote peace and stability across the continent. Mugabe and his associates are subject to EU and US sanctions following Zanu-PF’s victories in the 2002 and 2008 elections, which were marred by allegations of vote-rigging, violence and intimidation. Mugabe denies any wrongdoing, and accuses the west of trying to encourage regime change.

Zimbabwe: The LGBTI community’s struggle for healthcare access

A woman walks past a billboard promoting male circumcision to combat Aids in the capital, Harare. (Pic: Reuters)
A woman walks past a billboard promoting male circumcision to combat Aids in the capital, Harare. (Pic: Reuters)

Seated on a bench in a clinic in Harare, Taenda Tavira (not his real name) waited patiently for his turn. As he entered the consultation room, the nurse asked: “How can I help you, young man?” Tavira didn’t know where to begin but he managed to point at his pants, mumbling something. Annoyed, the nurse snapped: “You are not the only one to be served, don’t waste my time.”

The young man gathered himself and with difficulty said he thought he had contracted a sexually transmitted disease. As he removed his pants in front of the nurse, she shouted: “I knew when you entered that something is wrong with you! Are you a man or a woman?” Stunned, Tavira pulled up his pants, walked out of the room and never went back.

This wasn’t the first time he was treated this way.

“I, like every other gay person, has to give in to a lot of insults and degrading inhuman utterances every day,” Tavira confides after relating the recent incident. He is open about his sexuality and the discrimination he faces at the hands of health personnel in Zimbabwe.

For Zimbabwe’s LGBTI community, disclosing one’s sexual orientation is a major barrier to getting accurate, appropriate and relevant medical treatment. Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe (Galz) is an organisation that works to protect the interests of this minority group in the country. Its programmes manager Samuel Matsikure highlighted that as Zimbabwe’s leadership has openly denounced homosexuality, discrimination and stigma against the LGBTI community goes unpunished and will take a long time to uproot.

President Robert Mugabe has made it clear that homosexuality will never find a place in Zimbabwe. “Homosexuality degrades human dignity. Its unnatural and there is no question of allowing these people to behave worse than pigs and dogs … If you see people parading themselves as lesbians and gays arrest them and hand them over to the police,” he said in a speech at a Harare book fair in 1995. More recently, he maintained that “gays have no human rights” and reportedly called for the arrest of gays and lesbians who don’t conceive children.

This state-endorsed homophobia has made it difficult for Galz to get HIV and Aids prevention messages out to its 2100 members and the LGBTI community at large, who face a backlash from government and society and receive no support from public health institutions. About 15% of Zimbabwe’s adult population is living with HIV and Aids. There is currently no data available on the LGBTI community specifically.

“The hostile environment the gay community is exposed to, especially at health facilities in the country, has impacted negatively on their rights to basic services such as health,” Matsikure said. “Some have been keeping sexually transmitted infections for six to eight months without seeking help.”

“Such discrimination and stigma at the highest level makes our lives difficult and we remain a secretive and isolated community always fearing for our lives,” Tavira added.

Zimbabwe’s Constitution promotes universal access to health, enabling every person, regardless of their sexual orientation, to be treated with respect and have access to healthcare and support. The every day reality, though, is very different.

In a bid to address this, Galz has engaged the Zimbabwean government, the National Aids Council (NAC) and Zimbabwe Doctors for Human Rights to educate them about the LGBTI community.

“We have held sensitisation workshops with stakeholders to root out ignorance and misinformation associated with the LGBTI community. Hostility, and beliefs systems deep rooted against the practise of same sex relationships in the country will need to be reversed,” said Matsikure.

While Zimbabwe’s Constitution stipulates healthcare for all, it also outlaws same sex marriages. The gay community continues to be marginalised, making the fight against HIV and Aids all the more difficult. “The intersectionality of HIV and Aids between the broader heterosexuals and LGBTI community is a reality. If we are to reduce or end new infections, end deaths from Aids, end stigma and discrimination in Zimbabwe no one should be left behind,” said Matsikure.

Sally Nyakanyanga is a freelance journalist and media trainer based in Zimbabwe. 

Mugabe at 90: ‘I feel as youthful as a boy of 9’

Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe, celebrating his 90th birthday before thousands of people at a soccer stadium on Sunday, said he felt like a young boy and urged the nation to shun homosexuality.

“I feel as youthful and energetic as a boy of nine,” said Mugabe, at the event in Marondera, 75 kilometres east of Harare. More than 45 000 people gathered at the stadium, said organisers from Mugabe’s Zanu-PF party.

President Robert Mugabe talks during celebrations marking his 90th birthday in Marondera on February 23  2014. (Pic: AFP)
President Robert Mugabe talks during celebrations marking his 90th birthday in Marondera on February 23 2014. (Pic: AFP)

Mugabe gave his trademark clenched fist salute to the crowd, as he and his wife, Grace, stood at the back of a truck that drove around the stadium. Mugabe holds a giant birthday party in a different city each year, to take the festivities around the country.

He cut a 90-kilogram cake, one of five cakes served, and 90 cows were butchered for the massive party, estimated to cost $41-million.

Mugabe’s actual birthday was on February 21 but he was away in Singapore for a “cataract operation” on his left eye, according to his office. He returned to Zimbabwe on Saturday.

Mugabe claimed to be as “fit as a fiddle” in an interview broadcast on state television, although at times he appears frail. On Sunday he looked robust, speaking to the crowd for an hour.

“We don’t accept homosexuality here. God made men and women so they can bear children,” Mugabe said.

In the birthday broadcast, Mugabe insisted he isn’t ready to retire.

“Why should it (retirement) be discussed when it is not due?” he said in an interview broadcast on state television. “The leadership still exists that runs the country. In other words I am still there … When the day comes and I retire … I do not want to leave my party in tatters. I want to leave it intact.”

Mugabe claimed he is the harbinger of good tidings for the nation, as the country has been soaked with rains around his birthday.

“My mother told me I was born during a year of plenty, in a year of a good harvest,” he said. “Now we see rains coming down as I turn 90, this is going to be a year of good harvests.”

Mugabe’s 90th birthday comes amid intense speculation about Zimbabwe’s future when his grip on power loosens.

Vying to replace him are Vice President Joice Mujuru and Justice Minister Emmerson Mnangagwa.

In July Mugabe, who has ruled the nation for 33 years since 1980, won disputed elections for another five-year term that will take him to age 94.

Zimbabwe’s economy
In his early years in power, Mugabe expanded public education and health services that were the envy of the continent. But Zimbabwe’s economy went into meltdown in 2000 after Mugabe ordered the seizure of thousands of white-owned commercial farms, leading to the collapse of the agriculturally based economy, once the region’s breadbasket.

Unemployment has soared to an estimated 80%. Hundreds of long established industries have closed, often blaming Mugabe’s new black empowerment laws that compel companies to give black Zimbabweans 51% control.

Mugabe has blamed the economic slump on Western economic sanctions, mostly travel and banking bans imposed on him personally and his closest associated to protest human and democratic rights violations.

In recent weeks the country has seen allegations of massive corruption in state enterprises at a time when many Zimbabweans are surviving on less than $2 a day. – Sapa-AP