Jamaica offended by Mugabe's remarks

2012-09-13 08:00

Kingston - Comments by an African leader portraying the men of Jamaica as chronic drunkards and un-ambitious pot smokers have become the talk of towns across this Caribbean island. People are debating the matter on street corners, in letters to the editor and on radio talk shows.

In unscripted asides during a roughly three-hour speech last week at a research exposition, Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe said Jamaican "men are always drunk", have no interest in higher education, and people freely smoke marijuana.

"The men want to sing and do not go to colleges, some are dreadlocked. Let us not go there," Mugabe told the crowd at the University of Zimbabwe in Harare. His comments in a mixture of both English and the Shona language were corroborated by The Associated Press after speaking to several reporters who attended the gathering.

Over the years, Mugabe has repeatedly made disparaging remarks about dreadlocked Rastafarians, whom he once described as having "moths and mud" in their hair. Rastafarianism, best known for its ritual use of marijuana and the dreadlock hair style worn by followers, emerged in Jamaica in the 1930s out of anger over the oppression of blacks. A small minority of Jamaicans are adherents.

Reggae singer Cocoa Tea, a Rastafarian who performed in Zimbabwe last October, told The Jamaica Star tabloid that Mugabe's comments were "not a true reflection of us as people".

"Jamaicans are way better than that and we are leaders, but everyone is entitled to their own opinion," Cocoa Tea said.

Glen Harris, a labourer and father of two children, said he felt irritated when he heard about the Zimbabwean president's chiding remarks on a local radio programme. Like the large majority of Jamaica's population, Harris is black.

"This is an African leader talking like this? Black man should stick up for each other. We're all Africans," he said on a Kingston street of low-slung concrete buildings and sheet metal fences.

Demand an apology

Although some foreigners have an image of Jamaica as a laid-back, sun-soaked slice of paradise where unhurried people smoke marijuana without a care, marijuana use is illegal and many islanders are socially conservative churchgoers who quietly endure stereotypes of their country.

Still, a few Jamaicans aren't aggrieved with Mugabe, who received a top government honour during a 1996 visit. They note that their island is the largest producer of marijuana in the Caribbean and that far more women graduate from university than men, and say Mugabe may have a point, even if he was being overly broad by disparaging Jamaican men.

"Is President Robert Mugabe really on to something? Certainly, his observation that our 'universities are full of women' while our 'men want to sing and do not go to colleges' is a truism, which none can deny," Northern Caribbean University administrator Vincent Peterkin wrote in a letter to the editor of The Jamaica Gleaner newspaper.

The government's political opposition has also waded into the debate, urging Jamaica to demand an apology from Mugabe.

"If true, it is startling that someone who has himself claimed that his country is a victim of imperceptions fed by the international media should be using these misconceptions of Jamaican society to describe our people," said Olivia Grange, spokesperson for the Jamaica Labour Party.

Jamaican Information Minister Sandrea Falconer said on Wednesday that the foreign affairs ministry, led by AJ Nicholson, was still trying to confirm if Mugabe made the remarks.

"I know his ministry is still trying to authenticate the source, and after we will respond," Falconer said in a brief phone interview.

In a written statement, Nicholson stressed that "Jamaican men and women from all walks of life have made valuable contributions to national development and have made their mark on the world stage".

  • Squeegee - 2012-09-13 08:14

    Hahaha. Mugabe the social commentator. His opinions really carry so much weight. NOT.

      francois.smith.7 - 2012-09-13 14:40

      I like Bob Marley more than Bob Mugabe - maybe Bob is jealous of his namesake that changed the world and Africa for the better with his music and not through famine and rape like Mugabe himself.

      francois.smith.7 - 2012-09-13 14:43

      Since when does Mugabe wear sunglasses inside- Oops it is his nostrils.

      nrgx.nrg - 2012-09-13 16:02

      Mr. Chatterbox how long will you live? Always to receive but never to give Always carry news all over the place Mr. Chatterbox you are a big disgrace You cheek and you tounge A go let you down And a when them let you down We a go batter you around Bif, baf, boof, those are the blows you're gonna get Mr. Talkative, I know you will regret

  • simbarashe.kwangwari - 2012-09-13 08:21

    Jamaicans shld consider his age, at his age you shldnt take serious with evrything your grandparents says though there is a grain of truth in the oldman's sentiments.

      nrgx.nrg - 2012-09-13 16:08

      The only grain of truth is that his age is higher than your IQ

  • John Peter Steyn - 2012-09-13 08:22

    Only the good die young, the evil seem to live forever.

  • philip.buys.1 - 2012-09-13 08:30

    hahaha...this is so funny.......hahaha. Mugabe is the funniest clown in the world.....hahahaha...must be smoking and drinking a lot of the products from Jamaica...whahahaha!

  • philhaj - 2012-09-13 08:32

    why dont they(jamaicans) just take the criticism as a sign of African togetherness?most of the things this old man said are true and an intelligent man would be happy when his wrongs are pointed out.

  • lucas.chingonzo - 2012-09-13 08:36

    Kwakwakwakwa Thats True

  • - 2012-09-13 08:40

    Talking of stereotypes? I overheard one farmer saying that getting a Zim and RSA black chap to work together is like yoking a horse and donkey together. The horse may as well end up pulling both plough and donkey. Guess who was the donkey? Is that representative?

  • nicolaas.geldenhuys - 2012-09-13 08:48

    Don't worry Jamaica, don't take anything that this prick says serious.

  • guyt1 - 2012-09-13 08:54

    Well Mugabe just being alive and breathing our air offends me ... big fuggen biggot

  • wesley.bischoff - 2012-09-13 09:00

    He is a sick old man, riddled with syphilis. No wonder his brain is rotting.

  • michael.odonnell.39545 - 2012-09-13 09:23

    Mugabe is a cruel tyrant who has approved the torture and murder of his political opponents. He has ruined the economy of a once rich country and driven many of his people to flee the country. The worse pot smoking drunkard in Jamaica is a better man than Mugabe.

  • nico.leroux1 - 2012-09-13 09:35

    Well, don't forget. Mugabe is a man of very high moral standards. Plus he is a member of the old boys club!

  • angela.michaels.73 - 2012-09-13 09:50

    Pretty ironic from someone who had Bob Marley playing at his independance celebrations back in the 80s. Shows how senile this old fool has become.

  • witnessed - 2012-09-13 14:34

    This is a great insult to influential Jamaican leaders of Marcus Garvey's calibre who contributed to the liberation of African continent and its people.Mugabe owes a Jamaican nation apology.

  • fhumulani - 2012-09-13 14:34

    UNcle Bob leave those chaps alone wena, Do u also want some skyf?

  • leaproach.thekeeper - 2012-09-13 15:22

    Mugabe is an obnoxious fart. VIVA BOB MARLEY!

  • Hemlock - 2012-09-13 15:36

    Time this old fart is exterminated and turned into fertilizer. It will be the only good thing he has ever done for Zim!

  • Hemlock - 2012-09-13 15:40

    Maybe Jamaica should fine Mad Bob. "Swiss tourist fined for insulting Mugabe Zimbabwean court officials say a Swiss tourist Thomas Fischer has been fined $200 for insulting President Robert Mugabe."

  • grant.montgomery.5074 - 2012-09-13 15:51

    Mugabe is just trying toput up a smoke screen to take peoples' minds off the state Zim is in : A third of population is dependent on foreign food aid. Over 70% unemployed. Zim's currency replaced by the US$. An estimated 3 million refugees having been forced to leave Zim. Elections a farce as Mugarbe ignors the results.

  • ognjen.jakov - 2012-09-14 13:49

    Can you imagine in Bob had a FB account how much he would rage on it. heheheeh

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