Again?: Mugabe’s Hand Of God

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At the recent funeral of the Pope, Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe sparked laughter when British Prime minister Tony Blair fled from his nearby seat rather than shake hands with the African leader.

Britain and Zimbabwe have cold relations. The U.K accuses Mugabe of authoritarian rule – Zimbabwe says Britain reneged on its promise to provide financing for purchasing land from white minority farmers who held most of the land. Zimbabwe government redistributed land over the last five years, angering the British.

Speaking to the ruling Zanu-PF’s Central Committee upon his return, a cheerful Mugabe told of attending the funeral with other world leaders including U.S. President George Bush and his two predecessors- George H. Bush, and Bill Clinton. “It was p,r,s,t,u,v,� the president said, speaking of the seating arrangements, “unfortunately ‘v’ was not there and ‘u’ was for United Kingdom. So the next for U.K. was ‘Z’.� The president had to wait for laughter to subside, then he told of how Blair fled the scene.

“Blair left, then came the Prince (Charles) and Murerwa (Zimbabwe's finance minister) sat close to him. Dr. Murerwa's seat had been originally intended for Mr. Blair. Blair felt, ‘I will not be comfortable sitting with these people, so he decided to go and sit behind my aide Moses Chihuri. He was not aware that he too was my aide. He did not know.�

The president again jolted the Central Committee when he said, after greeting Prince Charles, the two men discussed women. “He told me he was in Ghana and that there were nice women there. And, I said to him, ‘I married in Ghana,’� Mugabe said, discussing his first wife, the late Sally Mugabe, who hailed from Ghana. “I congratulated him and I said ‘we wish you well’ because Saturday he was being wedded to his Camilla. I said ‘I’m sorry I can’t invite you to have a honeymoon in Victoria Falls. I asked him to send my regards to the Queen. I’ve respect for the Queen and I asked him to convey my greetings to her.�

The president added: “The British media went completely berserk, rounding on the Prince for merely shaking my hand. They said my hands are tainted with blood. I don't know which blood they were referring to.� British media similarly attacked Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, after he shook hands with Mugabe at a United Nations function last year.

Mugabe had just delivered a scathing attack on Blair and his ally Bush at the 59th session of the United Nations General Assembly. At the time, Straw said, “I had not expected to see President Mugabe there. Because it was too dark in that corner, I was being pushed towards shaking hands with somebody just as a matter of courtesy and then it transpired it was President Mugabe.�

Pundits dubbed it the ‘hand of God,’ handshake; the reference is to England’s 2-1 crushing World Cup quarter-final defeat when Argentine Diego Maradona guided a goal with his hand.

Tsiko is The Black Star News’s Southern Africa correspondent based in Harare, Zimbabwe. Please send comments to For more reports go to “subscribe� on the homepage or call (212) 481-7745 to get the newsstand edition of The Black Star.

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