I'm no British clone: Mugabe

HARARE - President Robert Mugabe says he does not want anyone to be fooled by his impeccable Western style of dress and his precise, teacherly use of English: He is African through and through.

“I am not British, I am not a colonial product because I am a complete Zimbabwean,” he told graduates at Great Zimbabwe University near the remains of the 13th Century walled city, for which Zimbabwe, the former colony of Rhodesia, is named.

Addressing the students earlier this month, Mugabe had typically harsh words for Africa’s former white rulers.

“They think their right is to rob others of their resources,” he said.

But black Africans have the right to their own natural wealth and must “remain true” to local values after centuries of colonial rule that brought foreign cultures to the continent, he added.

The ascetic, austere Mugabe is a tough critic of the West, but he has been described as an anglophile and is known as a stickler for ceremony and detail.

At the ceremony, he wore a sash, robe and mortarboard, academic regalia used in some of Britain’s most conservative universities.

Mugabe warns, however, that his Western appearance can deceive.

He said the nation’s former British colonisers thought he admired all things British and had a British “way of thinking”.

After Zimbabwe’s independence in 1980, “they said publicly the problem with Mugabe is that he thinks like us,” said the 89-year-old former teacher who was handed power as Zimbabwe’s first black leader by heir to the British throne Prince Charles and the departing British colonial governor in 1980.

“Goodness me! How can I think like them?” said Mugabe.

“I would be a rotten thinker to think like them.”

But he does dress like them, and requires other Zimbabweans to do so, too.

Since 1980, Mugabe has insisted on a strict suit and tie dress code among ministers and lawmakers in the Harare parliament.

The former guerrilla leader quickly abandoned Chinese-style Mao jackets in favour of tailored business suits with colour-co-ordinated neckties, breast pocket handkerchiefs and matching accessories, sometimes including flowers in the buttonhole of his lapel.

Other post-colonial African presidents have observed Western dress codes but few as elegantly as Mugabe.

President Kamuzu Banda of Malawi, who died in 1997, appeared in three-piece suits and a homburg hat but always carried an African chief’s flywhisk, made of lion’s hair.

Jomo Kenyatta of Kenya switched between regular suits and leopard skin shoulder wraps and headgear and also habitually carried a flywhisk.

Former South African President Nelson Mandelabroke the mold, preferring bright batik-style casual shirts, even on formal occasions.

Until Western travel and banking bans were imposed on Mugabe and his party leaders to protest human and democratic rights violations about a decade ago, Mugabe regularly visited the upscale Harrods department store in London’s Knightsbridge district and Savile Row in Mayfair, the home of Britain’s best bespoke tailors.

Now he takes vacations in Malaysia and Hong Kong, Asian clothing and tailoring hubs, and shops on trips to United Nations meetings in New York and Geneva which are excluded from the travel bans.

At the annual state opening of parliament, Mugabe rides in a vintage British convertible Rolls Royce, escorted by police on horseback wearing colonial-style pith helmets carrying upright lances bearing flags and service insignia.

The nation’s judges attend the ceremony in scarlet robes, wearing traditional British wigs of bleached horsehair in the parliament house originally built as a copy of the British House of Commons legislature at Westminster, London.

Most Zimbabweans see no contradiction in Mugabe’s love-hate relationship with Britain and the West which he stridently criticises and calls racist at most State functions.

Top personalities mostly follow his sartorial example and defend the use of large cars in the largely impoverished nation.

“There is status involved here. It is a mark of authority. How can you be taken seriously and command respect if you are not properly dressed and if you do not have a proper car?” said Harare businessman Edward Nyathi.

Mugabe is a keen sports fan and remains patron of Zimbabwe’s national cricket team though he no longer attends matches at the colonial Cape Dutch-style Harare Sports Club across the street from his offices.

He once described the quintessentially British sport of cricket as “a game every young Zimbabwean should learn to play. It is a civilising influence”.

Comments (11)

Lets just put it this way; Saddam is to America as Bob is to Britain. But I don't think Britain will do to Bob as America did to Saddam, or to Gaddafi...! It could be worse..! Watch this space..!

mammoth castle - 20 November 2013

Zimbabwe is striving not to be politically dependent on Britain. However, we cannot deny that we are a cultural and economic British colony. That's what this article only proves. This has got nothing to do with the President's etiquette and style. It is just for political expediency he says the rhetorical "Zimbabwe will never be a colony again", but deep down knows the country, for now, is under the mighty grasp of the vestiges of the British Empire.

Che Guevara - 20 November 2013

Here is a little something extra to do for your spare time that could earn you money, all you need is a little time to spare and the internet ofcourse. Many scams ask for cash upfront or your account details so they could steal money from you but with Revenue job its different.All you need is to advertise and you'd get to earn $5 for every new client or person interested and checks out your link. They pay you out every monthend if you manage to reach a minimum of $300. Its genuine and worth a try...Stay blessed

Nikkie - 20 November 2013

Whatever the case, if the truth is to be said, Gushungo is missing Britain, if he was not missing he would have long back stopped preaching about the British. HE MISSES ENGLAND AND THE QUEEN KUNYANYA!

WeZhira - 20 November 2013

Bob, it is up to us to judge you. Of course you will always defend the chip on your shoulder. Kuzeza chati kwatara hunge unekaturike.

Mavara Azarevhu - 20 November 2013

Gara nehuZimbo hwakho ihoho. Ko wanetswa neyi? Siya maBritish akadaro nechando chavo iwe rimasora rako mumapurazi awakatora

Gwenaz - 20 November 2013

Irrigation water reticulation engineers,Consultancy, designs ,boreholes, RAINGUN SPRINKLERS !!overhead irrigation, drip irrigation, pump experts- installation, repairs, trolleys (portable), pivots, pipeline survey and installation, garden irrigation, booster pumps,maintenance,surface irrigation, tanks and tank stands.Thinking Long term & Reducing Costs . rainflotech@yahoo.com 0715415931; 0773 528 045

Irrigation vs Climate change - 21 November 2013

So what?

Peter - 21 November 2013

What did president Robert Mugabe study at Fort Hare university ?

Bystander Martin - 21 November 2013

you are a british through and through mudhara. the way you run your gvt is westminister style which is british. your parlament is british kusvika kucolor, outside your office there is livingstone statue, tichiri unyora o'level jce and A'level yavakainventor, we are regarded as the most educated folks because you did not change from their basic skills, we still do aprenticeship, zvakawanda mudhara. read the following, Westminster cabinets also have a tendency to be very large. As the cabinet is the chief organ of power and influence in the government, members of parliament may actively lobby for a position in cabinet once their party is elected to power. The President, who is also party leader, will have an active interest in promoting as many of these members from their own party as possible. Prime ministers under any Westminster system have ample freedom to appoint a large variety of individuals, such as judges, cabinet ministers, and other senior bureaucrats.

kagande - 21 November 2013

@Kagande big up tell that old man. You have hammered the point home.

Gwenaz - 21 November 2013

Post a comment

Readers are kindly requested to refrain from using abusive, vulgar, racist, tribalistic, sexist, discriminatory and hurtful language when posting their comments on the Daily News website.
Those who transgress this civilised etiquette will be barred from contributing to our online discussions.
- Editor

Your email address will not be shared.