HARARE - President Robert Mugabe has said if he was a dictator he would have “taken the head” of Ian Smith, the late former Rhodesian leader.
Trying to recapture the old revolutionary fervour of those times, Mugabe spent nearly an hour recounting the history of British colonialism and the unfairness of its rule, leaving only a few minutes to the country’s economic crisis.
Addressing a press conference on a State visit to South Africa on Wednesday at the Union Buildings in Pretoria, he denied accusations of rights abuses and crushing civil liberties of Zimbabweans peddled in the SA Press ahead of his visit, the first since 1994.
“And I say to you journalists, thank you for bringing so much attention, those who you write those papers for we read, and bring so much attention to us and to president Mugabe and for the publicity you have given me as you focused.
“Those of you who focused on me as a real dictator, yes, a dictator would have cut the throat of Ian Smith the first day we got back,” the 91-year-old Zimbabwean leader said.
“But I said no, let us turn our swords into ploughshares and forget about yesterday. We will work together, we worked together with Ian Smith.”
The late Smith owned a 200-hectare farm in southern Zimbabwe.
It was among some 4 000 occupied since 2000 by squatters led by veterans of Zimbabwe’s independence war who fought Smith’s troops after the white settlers here declared unilateral independence from Britain in 1965.
The war ended when the black majority won Rhodesia’s independence in 1980.
Mugabe has ruled Zimbabwe since then.
Mugabe said he did not exact any revenge on Smith.
“We even allowed him, not only to have his own farm but his father’s farm but alas, the Lord almighty called him and I think he came here (in SA), the doctors couldn’t help him and he died a natural death,” Mugabe said.
“We would have, we had vowed that those who were guilty of apartheid and guilty of bombing our people, killing our people, throwing bodies into disused mines, will not get away with it, the moment we get home, we would deal with them the moment we have power, we will cut their heads, we didn’t do that.
“It’s the anger of the struggle when now freedom comes, ah, you saw what Madiba (Nelson Mandela) did isn’t it, and he was the one who led you into accepting that those who were enemies, let’s accept them as friends,” Mugabe said.
Mugabe told the South African media not to write bad things about President Jacob Zuma.
“Let’s be supportive about our president,” Mugabe said.
“He has been tarnished, tarnished a lot, what for?
“He is your leader please, write well about him, you can tarnish me, I don’t care, but you must have the national spirit.”