Mugabe furious as rival compared to Mandela
Zimbabwe president Robert Mugabe has reacted furiously to Australia’s comparison of Morgan Tsvangirai to anti-apartheid icon Nelson Mandela, accusing the Zimbabwean prime minister of being used by the West to divide the struggling southern African nation.
Australian prime minister Julia Gillard told the leader of Zimbabwe’s Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party this week that he was “a hero.”
“Like Nelson Mandela, like Aung San Suu Kyi, like Xanana Gusmao – you are one of the remarkable figures of our times,” Gillard said during a lunch held in Tsvangirai’s honour at Parliament House in Canberra. But Mugabe, 88, hit back, warning his prime minister he would be “a fool” if he allowed the praise to go to his head. Mugabe and Tsvangirai have been in an uneasy coalition since 2008, following polls in which 200 MDC supporters were killed. Fresh elections are expected in 2013.
“Being equated to Mandela? You’re being used to cause divisions among your people,” Mugabe told supporters in eastern Marange.
“If you choose to side with the West and do not realise that you are being used, then you are a fool,” he said.
A former guerrilla leader, Mugabe spent ten years in jail under the white minority regime of Ian Smith. He came to power at independence in 1980 but allegations of widespread rights abuses were quick to follow. Tsvangirai has headed the MDC, the only party to pose a real threat to Mugabe’s stranglehold on power, since 1999. He was badly beaten by security forces during a prayer rally in 2007.
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