Seems like the Zimbabwe dictator got a little miffed with us today:
President Robert Mugabe told the U.S. ambassador to Zimbabwe to “go to hell” on Tuesday, after the envoy blamed the country’s economic and political crisis on mismanagement and corrupt rule.
State media said the ambassador, Christopher Dell, risked expulsion from the southern African country for his “undiplomatic” criticism of the government in a public lecture.
The Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC) said it had asked Mugabe for his reaction to the comments.
“The president said the ambassador must go to hell. The president said: ‘I cannot even spell the word Dell with a “D” but an “H” and that is where Dell should go’,” a ZBC correspondent said during a news bulletin.
Dell said last week that Mugabe’s government was responsible for plunging Zimbabwe into a crisis which had left it with soaring poverty and chronic food shortages.
Mugabe, 81 and in power for 25 years, embarked on a controversial drive of seizing and redistributing white-owned farms to landless blacks in 2000, and earlier this year tens of thousands of people were made homeless after the government ordered the demolition of shacks and “illegal houses”.
In Washington, State Department spokesman Adam Ereli backed the ambassador’s comments and said the Zimbabwean government had not lodged a complaint. Zimbabwean state media said the Foreign Ministry was dealing with the matter.
“I think our ambassador and his comments very fairly and accurately reflect the policy of the United States,” Ereli said.
Mugabe’s relations with many Western powers, including the United States and the European Union, have soured in the last few years over charges of human rights abuses and vote-rigging.
But Mugabe says he has been targeted by foreign opponents led by Zimbabwe’s former colonial ruler Britain for his nationalistic policies and says most of Africa is on his side in which he describes as a struggle against imperialism.
I am shocked at the wit Mugabe displayed here, second only to “kiss my grits”….Fox New’s put it a bit more succinctly:
HARARE, Zimbabwe ? President Robert Mugabe said a U.S. diplomat who said government policies were to blame for Zimbabwe’s crisis could “go to hell.”
U.S. Ambassador Christopher Dell last week blamed Mugabe’s policies, rather than the drought and Western-imposed sanctions and boycotts Zimbabwe officials often blame, for 80 percent unemployment, 359 percent inflation, and an escalating humanitarian crisis.
“Mr. Dell, go to hell,” state radio quoted Mugabe as saying Tuesday.
Dell angered Mugabe with a speech last week in which he said that gross mismanagement and corruption had wrecked the once prosperous economy. He also challenged the government to admit that the demolition of thousands of homes, shacks and market stalls earlier this year had left a humanitarian crisis despite Mugabe’s refusal to accept U.N. aid.
Zimbabwe last month accused Dell of trying to provoke a diplomatic standoff after he entered a restricted area near one of Mugabe’s residences. He was held at gunpoint for 90 minutes by the presidential guard as he walked his dog through the National Botanical Gardens, apparently not realizing it was off limits.
The United States has been among Mugabe’s sharpest critics. U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice once labeled Zimbabwe an outpost of tyranny.
Zimbabwe’s economy has been in a tailspin since the government began its policy in 2000 to confiscate formerly white owned farms. This has decimated agricultural production in what used to be southern Africa’s breadbasket.
U.N. agencies say 4.2 million Zimbabweans, mostly in rural areas, urgently require food relief to survive to the next harvests due in April 2006.
And finally, while Mugabe sputters his giant wit he is also cracking down on those rascally protestors. Imagine the nerve of these people being upset over their living conditions:
HARARE, Zimbabwe (AP) – Police detained several trade union leaders and were out in force Tuesday ahead of planned demonstrations to protest worsening living conditions in Zimbabwe, union officials said.
The Zimbabwe Congress of Trades Unions, representing 30 worker organizations with one million members, said it wanted to “remind government and employers that workers are hungry, angry and tired.” “Life for the worker has never been poorer,” it said in a statement, highlighting the current 359 per cent inflation, mass unemployment and the HIV/AIDS epidemic that has affected a reported 21 per cent of the population.
Minister of Labour and Social Welfare Nicholas Goche denounced the protest as “a political gimmick” but stopped short of declaring an outright ban.
However the union movement said that police swooped overnight on leading activists in several parts of the country and detained them even though it had notified police of the marches, as required under new security laws.
Those arrested included Reason Ngwenya, the union’s western region chairman in the city of Bulawayo and Percy Mcijo, the regional officer.
“The ZCTU also views this as a way of discouraging ZCTU activists from embarking on demonstrations which are slated for six major towns in the country. The demonstrations are going ahead no matter what the police do to stop them,” it said.
Among other demands, the union movement wants free distribution of antiretroviral drugs to treat AIDS, now affordable only by wealthier Zimbabweans, and a monthly 10 million Zimbabwean dollar ($116 US) minimum wage. With 80 per cent unemployment, few Zimbabweans earn more than $1 US a day.
United Nations agencies say 4.2 million Zimbabweans, mostly in rural areas, urgently require food relief to survive to the next harvests due in April 2006.
On the eve of Tuesday’s planned protest, a previously unknown pro-government organization calling itself “ZCTU Concerned Affiliates” published advertisements denying the union movement had a mandate and urging dialogue with President Robert Mugabe’s government.
It said demonstrations “are not beneficial to the workers in any way and … will only serve one purpose, that of hardening positions between workers and government.”
Using almost identical language, Goche said the protest was inspired by the opposition Movement for Democratic Change in league with “external forces.”
For the past five years police have moved without warning to break up any critical demonstrations, with 30 arrests on Saturday when placard-waving lobbyists for a reformed constitution sprinted through downtown Harare, pursued by paramilitary riot squads.
In a four month May-September crackdown, Mugabe destroyed the livelihoods of street traders and demolished homes of 700,000 people living in alleged “informal settlements.”