Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe's firm assertions that his country was "well resourced and not poor" at the World Economic Forum in Durban on Friday drew anger from civil society groups representing millions of his countrymen who have migrated to neighbouring South Africa.
"It continues to come as a shock that this old ancestor continues to participate at these high profile events and then go on to lie and misrepresent facts about Zimbabwe. To think that he was hallucinating, saying that Zimbabwe is more developed in Southern Africa is shocking considering the state that the country is in right now," Shelton Chiyangwa, who leads the South African chapter of the #Tajamuka campaign, said.
"Roads are killing innocent citizens daily, hospitals are death traps without medication, we do not even have our own currency and the recently introduced bond notes have failed dismally to curb the cash crisis. Companies continue to close and leave the country and many are loosing jobs, farmers are being terrorised by police when they want to get what they worked for which must contribute to the gross domestic product." Chiyangwa said Mugabe was glaringly out of touch with the situation in Zimbabwe.
"Whatever Mugabe was smoking is worse than human waste as it is also evident that after vomiting such nonsense he goes on to sleep whilst the WEF session is still on," said Chiyangwa. Gauteng-based Advocate Gabriel Shumba of the Zimbabwe Exiles Forum said Harare's expenditure on these international events was bleeding the fiscus. "Even the war veterans have castigated the unnecessary expenditure that continues to bleed our almost non-existent economy.
"President Mugabe has already played his part – positive or negative. He is often pictured sleeping at most of these international events, a sign that his body and mind needs rest. His place is now by the fireside with his grandchildren. To continue driving him beyond his physical and mental possibilities will make us even more of a caricature country and is not good for investment," said Shumba.
"I would go so far as to say that his mere presence is a symbol of the fragility of our country, and we need to re-invent our brand. It is ironic that it is at this same gathering that President Zuma was boasting of injecting fresh and young blood into his ministries, yet he has no moral courage to advise President Mugabe of those vistas of possibilities."
A small group of Zimbabweans gathered near the venue of the WEF on Thursday, protesting against Mugabe's presence at the conference. One of the activists, Liberty Kwanisai, said Mugabe's presence at the economic forum in South Africa was an insult to millions who have fled his rule. "We did not choose to be immigrants in South Africa where we are not wanted. Life is tough for a Zimbabwean living in South Africa. We get discriminated [against] at the jobs we do because we don't belong here.
"So Mugabe cannot act as if all is normal and come here to talk economics. What does he know about economics? Our country doesn't even have a currency now," said Kwanisai.
"In terms of natural resources, yes Zimbabwe is rich. However, to materialise it into a conducive economy there is a stumbling block, hence making Zimbabwe the poorest country. If Zimbabwe is rich, we would not have millions of its citizens living in the diaspora."
Chairperson of the Zimbabwe Community in South Africa, Ngqabutho Nicholas Mabhena, said his organisation supported the anti-Mugabe protests. "Zimbabweans have a right to demonstrate against the political leadership of Zimbabwe which has turned millions of workers into migrants in foreign lands.
The presence of President Mugabe does not in anyway benefit the country in these international forums. We are a people who can not access our money in the Zimbabwean banks, caused by the bad economic policies imposed on us by this regime," said Mabhena.
"The African National Congress must ask itself the relevance of its political relationship with ZANU (PF) given the recent statements by the South African Minister of Police [Fikile Mbalula] that, ex-Zimbabwean soldiers are involved in armed robberies in South Africa."
Mugabe told the WEF on Thursday that Zimbabwe is not a fragile state, nor is it poor, but it is a well-resourced nation. The elderly statesman said the Southern African country was one of the most well-resourced countries on the continent. Zimbabwe has 14 universities and a literacy rate at more than 90 percent, Mugabe said.
AFRICAN NEWS AGENCY