PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe has told his long-term rival and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai that he would be a fool if he gets carried away by the effusive praise he received in Australia where he was compared to Nelson Mandela.
Tsvangirai this week visited Australia and New Zealand to press for the removal of sanctions imposed against Zimbabwe more than a decade ago over allegations of electoral fraud and human rights abuses.
The MDC-T leader hopes the easing of the sanctions would encourage Mugabe to commit to the implementation a raft of key political reforms he hopes will help ensure free and fair elections.
While in Australia Tsvangirai was showered with praise with the local media describing him as a “democracy champion” for his decade-long fight to remove Mugabe from power.
However, the Aussie premier Julia Gillard went a step further, likening Tsvangirai to South Africa’s anti-apartheid icon Nelson Mandela and Burmese pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi.
"You are a hero," Gillard said of her Zimbabwean counterpart during a Parliament House lunch in his honour. "Like Nelson Mandela, like Aung San Suu Kyi, like Xanana Gusmao - you are one of the remarkable figures of our times.”
But an unimpressed Mugabe told his rival Thursday he would be a fool if he allowed the apparent praise to go to his head.
Speaking at the launch of a community mining scheme in the Marange diamond fields Mugabe said: “Some of us are allying themselves with the West, but if you choose to side with the West and do not realise that you are being used then you are a fool.
“Some of us have scars inflicted by the colonial settlers during the period we were fighting against them, but some of us forget that and get carried away by being described as good leaders.
“Being equated to Mandela! You’re being used to cause divisions among your own people!”
Mugabe said leaders should be careful when courting international support.
“We have some among us who need training in ideology. Those who need to understand that the country has to look at itself, examine itself,” he said.
“There are areas that we must regard as sacred. We can have partners, but not the kind of partners from America who want everything for themselves and if you resist they would do to you what they did to (Libya’s Muammar) Gaddafi or Saddam (Hussein). Let us be wary of what happened to Gaddafi . . .”
Mugabe dismisses Tsvangirai as a puppet of Western powers trying to force his Zanu PF party out of power as punishment for its black economic empowerment policies that include the land reform programme and current efforts to force foreign companies to hand over control of their Zimbabwe operations to locals.
Tsvangirai formed a coalition government with Mugabe after violent but inconclusive elections in 2008.
The MDC-T leader believes he beat his rival in that election but was prevented from taking over power by pro-Mugabe elements in the top hierarchies of the country’s security services.
"We had a stalemate (in 2008). I had the support of the people, they had the guns," he said.
Tsvangirai however, insisted that he believed Mugabe was now ready to retire if loses the next elections which are expected within 12 months.
He told his Australian counterpart that Mugabe "would accept the result," noting he didn't "see any reason why he should plunge the country again into another dispute."
Tsvangirai added that the Zanu PF leader was "committed for his own legacy and for the legacy of the country to move forward in a stable way.