A peace prize awarded to President Robert Mugabe by the Chinese this week has generated controversy in Zimbabwe and around the World.
Mr. Mugabe won the Confucius Peace Prize, beating eminent individuals such as United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, among others.
The body running the award gifted the 91-year-old leader for what it called “injecting fresh energy” into the global stage, and working “hard to bring political and economic order” in his country.
Previous winners of the award, modelled around the prestigious Nobel Peace Prize, include Russian leader Vladimir Putin, former United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan and former Cuban leader Fidel Castro.
“Ever since Robert Mugabe was sworn in as the president of Zimbabwe in the 1980s, he has worked hard to bring political and economic order to the country and to improve the welfare of the Zimbabwean people by overcoming hardship,” the prize committee said in a statement.
But opposition members are outraged. They cite what they are calling Mugabe’s history of political violence and poor handling of Zimbabwe’s economy as absolute disqualifiers for any worthwhile award.
“It’s so frustrating to see a country like China giving a peace award to Mugabe who has actually terrorized the people of Zimbabwe,” said opposition MDC-T lawmaker Abednico Bhebhe.
“We have seen Mugabe since 1980 terrorizing people through Gukurahundi, we have seen disappearances under Mugabe. So how then can you give such a person a peace award?"
But Joseph Tshuma, a lawmaker from Mr. Mugabe’s ruling Zanu PF party applauded the accolade.
“You will note that our president has always been in the forefront of ensuring that our country remains as peaceful as we can ever get,” commented Tshuma.
“The president is a man of peace, so surely he deserves this award. I am happy for him and I applaud China.”
But political commentator Nkululeko Sibanda of the Huddersfield University in England disagreed.
“The Chinese don’t consider human rights much as we do. It is surprising that they are rewarding Mugabe for peace when he can hardly be associated with any peace initiative,” Sibanda said.