PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe yesterday made disparaging remarks about Zimbabweans based in South Africa, saying most of them had menial jobs and were content with buying bicycles and blankets.
Addressing a Zanu PF star rally in Manicaland, Mugabe said it was sad that many Zimbabweans were doing menial jobs in South Africa yet Zimbabwe had the highest literacy rate on the continent.
He said in most cases a number of men left their wives in Zimbabwe and only returned once or twice a year to visit.
“In Matabeleland South, there has always been a tradition that if you have not been to South Africa, then you’re not a man, Mugabe told party supporters, adding that there were a record number of border jumpers from the south-western provinces.
“I was 21 in 1945 and teaching at Empandeni in Plumtree . . . the whole area had no men, just women.
“The poverty that was there! The women couldn’t till the fields. Where were the men? In South Africa!
“They came back from South Africa, some came twice a year carrying some blankets.
“That was a tradition. If they got a bicycle, they were sorted. They would come, stay a week or two and go back.
He said Zimbabweans should return and build their country instead of working as waiters in the neighbouring country.
An estimated three million Zimbabweans fled the country at the height of an economic and political downturn to neighbouring South Africa and Botswana, while others are in Britain, Australia and America.
Extending the call to Zimbabweans who left the country for South Africa and for as far afield as the United Kingdom, Mugabe said: “Let us be proud of who we are”.
“Then others from other provinces followed. Others then said sanctions are biting, companies are closing, there’re no jobs,” he added.
“ They included nurses; they went to Britain during [Tony] Blair’s time, and Blair used that to blame my government; said that these people are running from Mugabe’s evil regime.
He said he did not see the reason Zimbabweans loved Britain when the country was cold, too small and had little houses.
Mugabe said many Zimbabweans including wife of first and only ceremonial President Canaan Banana, Janet, had used his name to apply for asylum in foreign countries.
“If you said ‘Mugabe’, they would just say ‘come in, come in’. Even (Canaan) Banana’s wife went there and said ‘I’m being oppressed.’ Oppressing the former President’s wife, how evil could Mugabe be?
“Yet we knew she went there to live with her children. “But see now, they (UK government) are saying these people are too many, they are causing tension in Britain, let them go back,” he said.
Mugabe had no kind words for South Africa, belittling its literacy rate, saying the country only came third on the continent after Zimbabwe and Equatorial Guinea.
He said he did not understand why countries like South Africa had legalised gay marriages, saying this will never happen in Zimbabwe.
Mugabe denied that he has ever rigged elections, saying his party’s conduct during polls was above board.
“Some parties say we rig elections. That is just politicking. Our colleagues in the MDC know that we have never rigged, never, never,” Mugabe added.