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Mugabe ‘stuck in the past’

FORMER US ambassador to Zimbabwe James McGee feels that President Robert Mugabe is “stuck in the past” and “desperate to re-engage with the world and to be treated as an elder statesman”.

According to the latest US State Department cable on Zimbabwe hacked by WikiLeaks, McGee and Democratic Party Congressman Donald Payne met Mugabe at State House in May last year for a “surreal” three-hours of talks. The cable authored by McGee was headed “Tea with Mugabe”.
It described Mugabe as “possibly the healthiest 85-year-old in Zimbabwe”.
Welcoming his guests Mugabe commented that “Zimbabwe hadn’t had many visitors lately”.
Then he launched into an “hour-long monologue” in which he painted himself “as the victim of international abuse and broken promises” and embarked on a “long-winded rehashing of Zimbabwe’s history”.
He talked “non-stop … without so much as a sip of water or a clearing of the throat”, declaring at one point that “we want to engage with the world”.
Growing “increasingly adamant and agitated”, Mugabe asked: “In the context of all the countries in the world — are we really the worst?”
Payne then “gently and masterfully praised Mugabe for his liberation credentials before confronting him about human rights abuses”.
Describing himself as having been a fan of Mugabe as a young man, Payne said he had followed the Zimbabwean president’s “distinguished” career since its beginnings “but noted that he is now concerned about the things he reads”.
Payne said there was a “stark dichotomy between the compassionate statesman who fought for freedom … and the current government that now allows police to beat black women (Woza) who dare protest”.
According to the cable, “Mugabe sank into the couch and appeared expressionless and somewhat stunned.
“At the mention of police beating women, he responded with a puzzled look: ‘Which women? Where did they get them from?’”
Mugabe “neither confirmed nor denied the abuses” but “responded well to Payne’s gentle confrontation”.
Then he piped up: “Well, I think we deserve some tea,” which to the amusement of the Americans was served by staff in white gloves!
Efforts to get a comment from Mugabe’s spokesman George Charamba yesterday were in vain as he was not reachable on his mobile phone.  — Media24 and Staff Writer.

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