Report by Dingilizwe Ntuli
“EVERY man got a right to decide his own destiny, and in this judgment there is no partiality. So arm-in-arm with arms we’ll fight this little struggle, cause that’s the only way we can overcome our little trouble.
Brother you’re right, you’re right, we go fight, we’ll have to fight, fight for your rights. Natty dread it in a-Zimbabwe; set it up in Zimbabwe; mash it up in a-Zimbabwe; Africans a-liberate Zimbabwe. Divide and rule could only tear us apart. In every man chest there beats a heart. So soon we’ll find out who is the real revolutionaries. And I don’t want my people to be tricked by mercenaries.”
These are the unmistakable lyrics of the late great Bob Marley from his song Zimbabwe which he belted out on Independence Day on April 18, 1980. When Marley and the Wailers were invited to perform, it’s said the first official words uttered in Zimbabwe, following the raising of our new nation’s flag were, “Ladies and gentlemen, Bob Marley and the Wailers”.
This tune had inspired the new country’s freedom fighters during the protracted bush war which led to Zimbabwe’s independence from Britain on April 18, 1980. Marley considered himself a freedom fighter through his revolutionary music.
Since that historic night at Rufaro Stadium in Harare, a host of prominent Jamaican reggae artists have flocked to our country and the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority even sponsored popular dancehall artists like Sizzla and Cocoa Tea to perform in Zimbabwe in a bid to help spruce up the country’s image.
The musicians have celebrated President Robert Mugabe as a principled and courageous freedom fighter. Sizzla even said Mugabe was one of his “fathers from Africa”.
But Sizzla’s “father from Africa” stoked a diplomatic tiff with Jamaicans last week when he stereotyped them as a country of drunkards perennially hooked on marijuana while giving a “distinguished lecture” at the Research and Intellectual Expo 2012 at the University of Zimbabwe.
“In Jamaica they have freedom to smoke mbanje, varume vanogara vakadhakwa (men are always drunk) and universities are full of women. The men want to sing and do not go to colleges, vamwe vanobva vamonwa musoro (some are dreadlocked). Let us not go there,” said Mugabe, oblivious of the outrage his sentiments would provoke. Were Marley alive today, what would he be saying?
Jamaican Foreign Affairs minister AJ Nicholson was angered by Mugabe’s statements and demanded an apology saying such comments were inappropriate, especially coming from a head of state, and even suggested that Mugabe return membership in the Order of Jamaica, which was conferred on him during a state visit in 1996 if he felt it was awarded to him by drunkards.
Had it been the Jamaican Prime Minister who branded Zimbabweans as lazy, the island would have been accused of pandering to Western stereotypes.
Do all Jamaican men smoke marijuana, spend the whole day drinking alcohol or prefer singing to working? Certainly not! While there may be some inconvenient truths about Mugabe’s observations, it is the undiplomatic manner he expressed his observations that seem to have angered most Jamaicans.
Jamaicans were quick to remind him that for a man who has been in power for 32 years and ruined his country, he should shut up. They reminded Mugabe that their island has achieved more than Zimbabwe in the international arena considering its size.
Who can forget the fastest man on earth, Usain Bolt ,being unleashed at the Beijing Olympic Games in 2008? Bolt shattered the 100m, 200m and 4X100m relay world records with lightning dominance and won the same events at this year’s London Games. Mugabe knows that Bolt is the only sprinter to retain the three Olympic sprints in succession.
They also reminded Mugabe that Jamaica proudly upholds democracy and the rule of law and while it might seem to Mugabe that their men are lazy, Jamaican women have actually advanced way beyond the stage where they are treated as second-class citizens.
This is not the first time Mugabe has drawn such widespread criticism for reckless and unprovoked utterances. In 1992, he came under fire from the Jewish community for declaring that white farmers were so “hard-hearted, you would think they were Jews”.
He issued an apology following an outcry and explained that he had used a Shona expression which when directly translated sounds offensive. Mugabe also made xenophobic and disparaging remarks about Mbare residents branding them “totemless” and elements of alien origin after they rejected his Zanu PF in the 2000 elections.
For a leader who always postures as the legitimate voice of Africans at home and the diaspora, Mugabe’s remarks exposed his poor and reckless sense of judgment and hypocrisy. He must apologise to Jamaicans for hurting their national pride. The Zimbabwe Independent