Comment: Aloof Mugabe offside again

President Robert Mugabe

President Robert Mugabe was at it again on Wednesday singling out a tribe for ridicule before the rumpus caused by his offending statements about Kalangas died down.

This time Mugabe chose to abuse the hospitality of his hosts in Botswana where he had visited the Southern African Development Community (Sadc) headquarters when he turned his acerbic tongue on the San people.

Mugabe was trying to defend himself against allegations raised by Botswana that his government manipulated the 2013 harmonised elections when he uttered bigoted statements against the San without any provocation. Botswana made the protest soon after the controversial elections.

“Even if they said they were not free and fair, must you hate them for that? So shall we say with the San people here who do not vote, so your elections are not free and fair?

“They don’t want to vote. They are interested in killing animals and enjoying their lives,” the President said without any sense of shame at a Press conference at the Sadc headquarters in Gaborone. Last month, Mugabe also used a similar Sadc platform to speak disparagingly about the Kalanga tribe found mostly in Matabeleland South province.

He claimed the Kalangas were uneducated and were to blame for petty crime in neighbouring South Africa. The statements provoked widespread anger especially in Matabeleland where civil society groups have petitioned the government demanding that Mugabe apologises for the statement.

However, the Zanu PF leader’s backers have been trying to wriggle their way out of the mess by claiming that Mugabe’s statements were misinterpreted.

The apologists claim the 91-year-old leader was referring to a colonial stereotype and should not be forced to apologise.
He is not likely to apologise because he believes in what he said and does not see any offence. The uncalled-for statements against the San validates the view that Mugabe is a bigoted politician. Zimbabwe also has a sizeable population of San people who are marginalised.

In light of Mugabe’s statements, it would not be far-fetched to speculate that the marginalisation is deliberate as the Head of State believes the community is only interested in killing animals.

There is a litany of statements where the head of the ruling party was caught offending other sections of society.

Mugabe also used the same Sadc platform to lecture South Africa on how it should organise its society and tried to belittle the neigbouring country’s liberation icon Nelson Mandela. He told the journalists that the political dispensation brought by Mandela did not address disparities between blacks and whites.

The Sadc chairman probably thinks that South Africa should go the same route as Zimbabwe where his racist approach to land reform led to the destruction of the economy.

Thousands of Zimbabweans thrown out of work after the collapse of the economy have found refuge in South Africa, the same economy that Mugabe wants to trash.

He is still probably bitter about South African President Jacob Zuma’s reminder that poor governance is responsible for the mass migration of Zimbabwean citizens to that country.

Instead of lecturing other leaders on how to run their countries, Mugabe should be spending more time finding ways of reversing the economic collapse he has been presiding over for the past 35 years. The President’s increasingly erratic statements on international platforms are becoming an embarrassment to the country and his advisers should do something to put brakes to this destructive streak.