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I remember a wise man once said your choice of friends defines your character. We may try to argue that

By SHORIWA MUTANDIRO

it’s not true saying that you have bad friends but you are a nice person, blah blah blah. But we must remember that birds of a feather flock together. I recall the first day I saw Tafirenyika our good neighbour’s son with a well-known thief, I feared that he would be converted into being a thief because of this new company that he was keeping. In as much as we may not want to believe it, friends have power in our lives, they can either build us or destroy us. Let’s take a look at Mugabe’s friends, and see how he has been influenced by them. 

Firstly, there is Fidel Castro Ruz born 13/08/1926, he became the President of Cuba in 1976. Prior to that, he was the Prime Minister. In 2006 while recovering from surgery he temporarily gave power to his young brother

BEST FRIENDS - Mugabe and Castro

Paul Castro until 14/02/2008 when he announced he would not return to power due to ”ill health”. This was the end of Fidel Castro era. He was in power for 49 years. Castro was known all over the world as a dictator who did not respect human rights, people were tortured and there was the oppression of freedom of speech in his country.

Mugabe has visited Cuba on more than five occasions but they are known to have a strong bond as they see eye to eye on how to rule a country. Like Fidel, Mugabe is also known for ignoring human rights and does not allow his people to speak against him. Like Fidel Mugabe has been in power for a very long time, now its 30 years. Like Fidel, Mugabe was first a Prime Minister then later became the president of Zimbabwe. And Like Fidel, unless we act and push Mugabe out of power, I foresee Mugabe giving power to someone due to ”ill health” just like his friend Fidel. Maybe unlike Fidel, who gave power to his brother Paul, but like his late friend Laurent-Desire Kabila who was replaced by his son after his assassination, we Zimbabweans will have to wait for Chatunga, his son who is 13 years old now to mature enough to be given power by his dad.

Of late Mugabe has been having a blossoming relationship with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. This is the President of the Islamic Republic of Iran, born 28/08/1956; he has been in power since 2005. He is a controversial figure both within Iran and Internationally. He has been criticized domestically for his economic lapses and disregard for human rights. His election to second term in 2009 was widely disputed and caused

SAY CHEESE - Ahmadinejad and Mugabe

wide-spread protests domestically and drew significant international criticism; the legitimacy of his presidency is still being questioned. According to a report by the Human Rights Watch, ”since President Ahmadinejad came into power the treatment of detainees has worsened…..”. This is the man who has also has faced worldwide condemnation for his Uranium enrichment program, to the extent that the U.N delegates walked out as he gave his speech when he was addressing the United Nations both in 2009 and 2010.

On 22/04/2010 this was the man who visited Mugabe and was given a hero’s welcome at the airport. MDC’s officials refused to meet him saying it will send a bad message to the rest of the world, which in my own opinion is true. Mugabe still entertained this man and hosted him like royalty. Like his new friend, Mugabe has made Zimbabwe a poor country due to his poor economic policies and corruption. Like Ahmadinejad, Mugabe’s presidency is still being questioned all over the world. I don’t think I will need to explain to anyone how detainees are treated in Zimbabwe. I cried when I saw pictures of Jestina Mukoko when she was released from prison, she looked really different and we could also see the treatment that she had received from the prison guards. And up to today, I cannot look at pictures of Tsvangirai of how he looked like after having been butchered by the prison guards’ when they had him in detention. I don’t think what we have in Zimbabwe are detention centers, they must be called torture chambers because that is what they specialize in. I pity anyone who will be detained in Zimbabwe.

Mugabe is a close friend to Muammar Abu Minya al-Gaddafi [Colonel Gaddafi] born in 1942, he has been a dictator of Libya since a coup in 1969. He has been in power for the last 41 years. After the coup, Gaddafi turned Libya into a haven for anti-western radicals. The Italian population almost disappeared after Gaddafi ordered their expulsion. Gaddafi has always responded to domestic and external opposition with violence. His revolutionary committees called for assassination of Libyan dissidents living abroad in April 1980 with Libyan hit squads sent abroad to murder them. In Libya, real power is vested in a revolutionary sector composed of Gaddafi and a small group of trusted advisers. While he holds no formal office, it is believed by

MUGABE AND GADDAFFI

many that Gaddafi holds near absolute control over the government.

It is a well-known fact that Mugabe and Gaddafi are close allies, recently Gaddafi on his 6 day visit to Burkina Faso, said Mugabe was a good leader and should never leave office until he solves every problem in Zimbabwe. He also praised Yoweri Museveni the Ugandan president who has been in power since 1986 and like Mugabe; he has also managed to abolish presidential term limits. It is very clear that Mugabe learnt from his close friend Gaddafi on how to deal with the so-called dissidents. In the early 80’s like how Gaddafi had created special hit squads to assassinate dissidents, Mugabe created the 5th brigade to kill dissidents in Zimbabwe leading to the painful memories of the Gukurahundi atrocities.

Lastly and certainly not the least Mugabe has a new youthful friend called Julius Sello Malema. This boy was born on the 3rd of March 1981 in Seshego, South Africa. He is the controversial president of the African National Congress youth league. He has been described as someone with the potential to destabilize South Africa and spark racial conflict. This year (2010) in a Johannesburg media briefing covering his visit to Zimbabwe, Malema was involved in a racial abuse incident with a BBC journalist labeling him as a bastard, agent and accused him of white tendencies and being rubbish in his trousers. He is also known for trying to populate the old song “Shoot the Boer” which sends the message to kill white people, luckily he was barred from singing it by the South African courts, but unfortunately when he landed in Zimbabwe he was greeted by ZANU PF supporters singing that song. He praised Gideon Gono even though Jacob Zuma had asked Gono to step down as part of his mediation efforts in Zimbabwe between MDC and ZANU PF. Who could blame this young boy for defending Mugabe’s political and human rights record after having been treated like a hero for showing loyalty to a dictator like Mugabe and his people?

Our choice of friends defines our character. Tafirenyika, our good neighbour’s son is now in prison not only for stealing like he had learnt from his friend but also for rape charges. We have the potential of becoming worse than our bad friends.

Psalms 1:1 says that blessed is the man who doesn’t walk the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sits in the seat of mockers.