Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe has branded presidential candidate Simba Makoni, who was cast out of Mr. Mugabe's ruling ZANU-PF party following his recent declaration for the top national office, a political "prostitute.”
"What has happened now is absolutely disgraceful," Mr. Mugabe said in an interview broadcast by state television on Thursday, his 84th birthday.
“I have compared him to a prostitute,” Mr. Mugabe told his interviewer, alluding to the maverick's effort to draw disenchanted ruling party members to his banner.
“A prostitute could have stood (for election). He is saying, I have so many boyfriends, some in the MDC, some in ZANU, so I can go for nomination. But a prostitute could have done better, because she has clients,” the president said.
Makoni aide Ibbo Mandaza, a former Harare newspaper publisher, fired back telling VOA that Mr. Mugabe's attack came as no surprise to the Makoni campaign. He urged President Mugabe to retire or face political humiliation in next month’s elections.
ZANU-PF expelled Makoni this month after he announced his candidacy, challenging Mr. Mugabe's leadership not only of the country but of the ruling party itself.
Mr. Mugabe's sharp attack may have weakened suspicions on the part of some in the opposition that Makoni's presidential bid is part of a Mugabe plan to ensure continued rule by ZANU-PF by drawing off votes from opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai.
Political analyst Rejoice Ngwenya told reporter Blessing Zulu of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that Mr Mugabe’s remarks were unfortunate from a statesman.