PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe has dissociated himself from a peace prize awarded to him by a Chinese institution.
Mugabe was last month awarded the Confucious Peace Prize — a supposed Chinese rival to the Nobel Peace Prize — for his outstanding contribution towards world peace, beating the likes of Microsoft founder Bill Gates and South Korean President Park Geun-hye.
The recognition immediately courted the ire of opposition parties, who said Mugabe did not deserve such a recognition, “given his bad human rights record”.
But State media columnist, Nathaniel Manheru, widely believed to be Mugabe’s spokesperson, George Charamba, said the veteran politician did not recognise the award.
“Not even his system takes note of the so-called award,” Manheru wrote in his weekly column published on Saturday.
“What is more, the Chinese government makes it clear that the so-called award is not affiliated with the Chinese government.
Yet the private Press is agog, together with the opposition it is beholden to, tripping one another to pass severest judgment, hurl the bitterest epithet on the prize, which has nothing to do with Mugabe except ascription.”
Manheru berated the awarding institution, describing it as “little” and seeking to raise its profile by awarding Mugabe.
“The supposed recipient is mum, here even, not a white Confucian. Just what is the story? Even some little institution, so far away from us, seeking to raise its own profile by forcing an association with Robert Mugabe, creates a threatening factor for opposition.”
Contacted for comment yesterday, Charamba confirmed that Mugabe was not following up on the award.
He said the organisers of Confucius Peace Prize had communicated through Zimbabwe’s Embassy in Beijing their wish to honour the President.
“The Chinese government informed the Zimbabwean government it was not associated with the conferring organisation. The matter ended there as far as government and the President were concerned,” he said.
“What the government did not, and should not do, is to stop an organisation wishing to show respect and goodwill from doing so, as best it knows how. The President receives many prizes without even knowing, approving or receiving them. What is dramatic in this case is that oppositional interests drew a revolver at the mentioning of an honour or prize to Robert Mugabe. That is what (former Germany leader Adolf) Hitler did when someone mentioned ‘culture’ to him.
Charamba said despite not accepting the award, Zanu PF spokesman Simon Khaya Moyo was right to laud the honour.
“Cde SK was right to underline that principle and also to acknowlegde the gesture of respect and goodwill towards the President by the conferring institution. That is good diplomacy, good politics,” he said.
Yesterday, Moyo maintained his position that Mugabe was an iconic figure and deserved recognition.
“What I was saying was; no matter where it is coming from, the President deserves it. Those who criticise his recognition are being unfair,” he said.
Zanu PF deputy director of information, Psychology Maziwisa, joined in, saying if Mugabe did not deserve the honour, then no one else did.
In May, renowned South African political analyst, Moeletsi Mbeki described Mugabe as one of Africa’s worst leaders.
He equated Mugabe to Burundi leader, Pierre Nkurunziza, who recently forced a third term despite widespread protests.
Mbeki is the deputy chairman of an independent think-tank, South African Institute of International Affairs.