Zimbabwe’s president Robert Mugabe has sparked an angry reaction in Jamaica after he reportedly said that their men were only interested in smoking dope and singing all day, Aislinn Laing of London’s Telegraph reports.
Mr Mugabe, 88, is said to have made the undiplomatic comments in an unscripted aside during a three-hour speech at a research exposition in Harare.
“In Jamaica, they have freedom to smoke cannabis, the men are always high and universities are full of women,” he is reported by the Zimbabwean Daily News to have said.
“The men want to sing and do not go to colleges, some of them twist their hair. Let us not go there.”
The comments provoked fierce debate in the Jamaican papers and on radio chat shows, and brought criticism from the country’s foreign minister who insisted his countrymen were “law abiding”.
“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,” AJ Nicholson told the Jamaican Gleaner newspaper.
Christopher Tufton, the opposition spokesman on foreign affairs, said that if Mr Mugabe had such a low opinion of the Jamaicans, he should be asked to hand back the Order of Jamaica award conferred on him during a state visit to the island in 1996.
“I think that he should be called on to provide an explanation as to what he meant. It’s inappropriate and, frankly speaking, rude. He should apologise to the Jamaican people,” he said.
But others suggested Mr Mugabe’s comments should prompt Jamaicans to do some soul-searching, pointing out that the island is the largest producer of marijuana in the Caribbean.
“Certainly, President Robert Mugabe’s 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,” Vincent Peterkin, a Northern Caribbean University Administrator wrote in a letter to the Gleaner.