Increasingly isolated and under heavy political pressure, Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe seized the occasion of the funeral of a liberation comrade to lash out at critics and perceived enemies, denouncing them as traitors and “stooges.”
The funeral Sunday of former black empowerment minister Josiah Tungamirai, who served under Mr. Mugabe in the Zimbabwe National Liberation Army or ZANLA during the guerrilla war to end white rule in what was then called Rhodesia, gave Mr. Mugabe a forum to bash his political opposition and church critics.
He accused the MDC of undermining his land reform program, which is widely blamed for the collapse of the economy and ongoing food shortages, and said a dedication to serving others was “sadly lacking” in some Zimbabwean churches.
Mr. Tungamirai’s legacy challenged Zimbabweans to guard their independence, said Mr. Mugabe, adding that this was threatened by treachery from within.
Reporter Blessing Zulu of VOA’s Studio 7 for Zimbabwe sought comment from MDC spokesman Paul Themba Nyathi, who called Mr. Mugabe’s charges “hallucinations” and said the 81-year-old president has nothing further to offer Zimbabweans.
Reporter Ndimyake Mwakalyelye spoke with Bishop Trevor Manhanga, head of the Pentecostal Assemblies of Zimbabwe and the Evangelical Fellowship of Zimbawe.
Zimbabwean political scientist Heneri Dzinotyiwei told Ndimyake it was to be expected that the president would deliver such attacks at Mr. Tunamirai’s funeral.
But Professor Dzinotyiwei, chairman of the Zimbabwe Integrated Program advocacy group, said he believes Mr. Mugabe wants to address legitimate issues but is going about it the wrong way at the wrong time.