By Gift Phiri
HARARE – President Robert Mugabe has brought his quiet feud with former South African President Nelson Mandela into the open, jealously claiming his coalition partner Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai had nothing to celebrate from being likened to the anti-apartheid icon.
Mugabe on Thursday dismissed accolades piled on Tsvangirai by Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard who described the former trade unionist as a hero in the mould of democracy icons Mandela and Aung San Suu Kyi.
Tsvangirai was showered with praise during his three-nation visit to Japan, Australia and New Zealand, inflaming an already tense situation in the coalition at a time Mugabe has been completely snubbed by world leaders.
An EU Council of Ministers and Washington this week vowed to maintain sanctions on Mugabe, but said the EU bloc would consider removing sanctions on some targeted officials after a free and fair referendum.
Gillard’s accolades at the end of Tsvangirai’s State visit inflamed the row when she described the Prime Minister as a “democracy champion”.
“You are a hero,” she gushed at the Australian Parliament House lunch in Tsvangirai’s honour on Tuesday.
“Like Nelson Mandela, like Aung San Suu Kyi, like Xanana Gusmao — you are one of the remarkable figures of our times,” she said, referring to the South African, Burmese and East Timorese political figures.
In remarks betraying Mugabe’s overwhelming sense of jealousy, and an intense and irrational envy of the accolades that Western leaders showered on Tsvangirai, the 88-year-old leader launched an unrestrained attack on his 60-year-old rival at Gomorefu High School while officially launching the Marange-Zimunya Community Share Ownership Trust on Thursday.
Mugabe departed from his prepared text to level the unusual broadside.
In the process, he has placed himself at odds with his coalition partner who has publicly embraced him in an effort to end sanctions on his regime if he ends violence in advance of elections.
Mugabe’s derisive statements about Mandela as a measure of exemplary leadership is also an affront to South Africa’s diplomatic efforts to resolve the Zimbabwe crisis, in which supporters of Zanu PF have beaten and killed opposition party supporters.
“Tine vamwe pakati pedu vari kuzemberana nevarungu. Kana uchizemberana naava vanhu usingazvione kuti uri kushandiswa uri benzi,” Mugabe said. (Some among us are siding with the whites. If you side with them and fail to realise you are being used, then you will be a fool.)
“Some of us have scars inflicted by the colonial settlers during the period we were fighting against them. Asi vamwe vedu hatizvione izvozvo. Vobva vapinzwa muhomwe.
“Vamwe vanobva vatonzi you are a good leader. Being equated to Mandela! Uri kushandiswa kurwisana nevanhu vako.” (You are being used to fight your people). Tsvangirai yesterday said he did not understand why Mugabe was miffed with the accolades.
“The PM was a recipient of the accolade,” Tsvangirai’s spokesperson Luke Tamborinyoka said yesterday. “We are surprised that the President is miffed. We had nothing to do with it; we are just a proud recipient of the accolade.”
Mugabe’s remarks cast immediate doubt that he was jealous of his coalition partner and Mandela, and confirmed this by ranting that there was nothing to write home about Mandela as a yardstick for exemplary leadership.
Mandela, who has described Mugabe’s rule as “tragic failure of leadership”, has backed sanctions on the regime. Over the past decade, Mandela has stole the limelight from Mugabe as an anti-apartheid icon in the region.
Reports of a feud between Mandela and Mugabe — two of the continent’s best-known leaders of liberation movements against white domination — have long been whispered. However, Mugabe’s latest outburst confirms the rift given that he so openly criticised the revered 94-year-old South African leader.
For Mandela, Mugabe represents a type of African independence leader who fought successfully for independence, then drifted towards tyranny by clinging to power. Mandela did the opposite, assuming the leadership of his nation and then stepping down after one term in office.
Political analysts say Mugabe has been driven into a permanent rage by the adulation heaped internationally on Mandela, an accolade of praise and recognition that he felt was more properly due to himself.
And, harbouring this grievance, he is trying to denude Zimbabwe of anything that might remind anybody of Mandela’s legacy. Daily News
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