PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe on Tuesday chided some Zimbabweans for going to live abroad, asking them: “You have your country; you fought for it, why are you running away?”
Mugabe, speaking at a Zanu PF campaign rally in Mutare, Manicaland Province, singled out Matabeleland South where he said there was a “tradition” of going to neighbouring South Africa.
He told supporters: “In Matabeleland South, there has always been a tradition that if you have not been to South Africa, then you’re not a man.
“I was 21 in 1945 and teaching at Empandeni in Plumtree... the whole area had no men, just women. The poverty that was there! The women couldn’t till the fields. Where were the men? In South Africa!
“They came back from South Africa, some came twice a year carrying some blankets. That was a tradition. If they got a bicycle, they were sorted. They would come, stay a week or two and go back. In Matabeleland South that has always been the tradition.
“Then others from other provinces followed. Others then said sanctions are biting, companies are closing, there’re no jobs. They included nurses; they went to Britain during [Tony] Blair’s time, and Blair used that to blame my government; said that these people are running from Mugabe’s evil regime.
“If you said ‘Mugabe’, they would just say 'come in, come in'. Even [Canaan] Banana’s wife went there and said ‘I’m being oppressed.’ Oppressing the former President’s wife, how evil could Mugabe be? Yet we knew she went there to live with her children.
“But see now, they [UK government] are saying these people are too many, they are causing tension in Britain, let them go back.”
Mugabe insisted that those who went to foreign countries were not doing any better than those they left behind. Extending an invitation to the exiles to return home, he said his government had a plan to create jobs in infrastructure development and mining.
He told supporters: “You have your country; you fought for it, why are you running away? Why run to Britain, a very cold and uninhabitable country with nowhere where you can say you can live happily? The houses are very small, why go there? So that you can say I went to England? Can those who went there show us what they did with their time?
“Even those in America, they only come home to die. The coffins, we buy them because they didn’t leave enough money behind to buy coffins.
“We have educated our people; if you are an engineer, the mines are there. If you’re an economist, an accountant, jobs are there. We want to build a lot, but we were being disrupted by this chipukanana that won 20 seats in this province.”
Mugabe went on to accuse MDC-T secretary general and Finance Minister Tendai Biti of failing to save Mutare industries.
“Watch how many companies have closed. We said before companies close, let’s help them. We had US$500 million from the IMF. Biti said ‘ah, this much I will use there, this much I will keep for elections.’
“We don’t have an idea where this money went. They have houses in South Africa, every weekend they are there. Our homes are here in Zimbabwe.”
Mugabe, 89, is on the campaign trail across the country bidding for a new five-year term in the July 31 elections.