PRESIDENT Mugabe’s Office has accused a top American newspaper of attempting to “contrive conflict” between Zimbabwe and Kenya by publishing made-up quotes in which the Zimbabwean leader is shown saying Kenyans have degrees in stealing.
Only after publishing did the newspaper try to verify the comments with the President’s spokesperson, Mr George Charamba.Mr Charamba yesterday laid into Jeffrey Gettleman, the New York Times’ East African correspondent, describing him as “blunderous, if not an outright racist”. Gettleman, according to Mr Charamba, sent an e-mail after his story had been read around the world stating: “I asked a local (Kenyan) journalist to check the veracity of the quote yesterday (November 4) and he said it appeared to be true. Others, though, have raised doubts. Can you tell me if President Mugabe said this?”
Blasted Mr Charamba: “I find it incredible that Mr Gettleman can insert a quote he attributes to my President in his story, and then seek to check its veracity only later.What was the idea? And why is he asking me about it now? To suggest an imperious haughtiness? “I don’t know whether that’s his idea of respecting an African, his idea of competent and truthful journalism. And his hope was to contrive conflict between our two great nations? It won’t happen.”
Mr Charamba said he had told Gettleman to “never reach me again until he gets back his ethics.” The article in the New York Times, posted on November 5, quoted President Mugabe as having said that “those people of East Africa shock me with their wizardry in stealing. You can even think that there is a subject in their universities called Bachelor of Stealing.” The African Union chairman, it was further claimed, “told his countrymen to be on ‘high alert’ in case they visited Kenya” because “they might infect you with that disease.”
The New York Times lifted the quotes from a Kenyan parody website spectator.co.ke which is a repository of made-up stories. The website was described on Twitter, by a Kenyan writer, as being run by “a blogger who knows we always react to truth from foreigners”. A skeptical journalist would have noted that the website carried some hard-to-believe stories, including one which claims “a former adviser to PM on legal affairs Miguna Miguna has vowed to form his own country and become its president by next year June.” Miguna, the website said, “had initially planned to form his own continent” on the uninhabited Kenyan coast deep in the Indian Ocean “after being disappointed by lack of foresight by AU”, but had decided against the idea fearing Somali pirates “would catch him and behead him or use him for ransom or probably hand him over to Islamic State for immolation”.
The spoof story on President Mugabe, published under the headline ‘Robert Mugabe — God should never have created those thieves (Kenyans) here in Africa’, was purportedly authored by one Clarence Mbagazi. The report claimed President Mugabe made the comments “while presiding over a funds drive in a city church on Sunday where he was the chief guest”.
It contained giveaway undiplomatic quotes attributed to the African Union chairman, including one where he is claimed to have said: “Sometimes I tend to believe that stealing is in every Kenyan’s blood.” Charamba said Gettleman and the New York Times, by publishing the fake quotes, had demonstrated unforgivable professional lapses. He added: “Mr Gettleman is very blunderous, if not an outright racist who should never be entertained on the African continent. By his conduct, it’s a shameful anomaly that a great paper like the NYT finds the boldness to make him a bureau chief.” Part of the article attributed to Mugabe read:
“Those people of East Africa shock me with their wizardry in stealing. Sometimes I tend to believe that stealing is in every Kenyan’s blood. These people go to their schools and read good courses but they qualify as the best thieves. You can even think that there is a subject in their universities called Bachelor of Stealing. Whenever they get an opportunity as employees, they never disappoint. They steal enough money to buy their freedom because even the judges who listen to their cases are financially powerless. I urge you my people to be on high alert in case you by bad luck, happen to visit that East African nation. They might infect you with that disease and we don’t want it here. Zimbabweans are honest people who love their country and don’t want such stealing tendencies ”
Kenyans have been fuming on social media over the said Mugabe quotes.