Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe File photo: Xinhua/Stringer

Harare/Cape Town - As a full-scale diplomatic war erupts between Zimbabwe and South Africa, President Robert Mugabe has accused ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe of “stupidly” telling him to stop attacking Nelson Mandela’s legacy.

Addressing captains of commerce and industry at State House in Harare on Thursday, the 93-year-old leader said political freedom without economic prosperity was hollow.

In crude remarks that have angered many, Mugabe has repeatedly claimed that Mandela – South Africa’s first democratically elected president and a liberation icon revered across the world – sold out the Struggle by cosying up to the masterminds of apartheid rule.

The veteran Zimbabwean leader said the South African economy was still owned by the white minority, while black people languished in poverty.

Mugabe believes that Mandela valued his own personal freedom over the economic liberation of black South Africans.

Mandela forgot why he was put in jail and gave whites an easy ride after 1994, Mugabe has claimed.

Mantashe, who has infuriated Mugabe by leaping to the defence of Mandela’s legacy, said he had personally raised the issue with Zimbabwe’s governing Zanu-PF, a political party that has enjoyed cordial ties with the ANC over the years.

“I phoned the secretary-general of Zanu-PF and told him that Mugabe may be all over Madiba, but the reality is that you’ve destroyed your economy. 

"We continue to create black millionaires in this country – including Zimbabwean millionaires. So restrain your president from making statements that are unresearched. 

“And it has been done in a responsible manner that has not brought our economy to its knees in the quest for populism,” Mantashe has said.

In Harare on Thursday, Mugabe lambasted Mantashe for criticising him. “We did not fight just for freedom. I make this remark in regard to South Africa. And what do they call him? 

"Gwede Mantashe stupidly reacted (to criticism of Mandela). Yes, they only fought to remove apartheid. This was it, we talked to them. 

“I remember TG Silundika (a hero of Zimbabwe’s liberation war) and myself talking to (Oliver) Tambo and we said, Ah, you’re just fighting for the removal of apartheid, not for independence, not for freedom and independence as we were doing.

“And they said, ‘well, freedom, independence was given to us by Britain in 1910 on May 31.’ (Tambo said) ‘It’s a legal thing; we cannot change it’. What? You can’t change it? 

A revolutionary party says it cannot change it. Then all our efforts, even ourselves, would be in vain if we can’t change the laws that our oppressors made.”

Mugabe went further in the 10-minute attack on Mantashe and the ANC. “They (the ANC) went that way. It was an easy way. You’d get even some of the whites supporting them. 

"Apartheid, yes, is not democratic, it’s a sinister policy. No, it must not obtain… but they could only go that far. 

"Ours was not just freedom. No. We wanted freedom of the nature that gave us independence and the right of ownership of our country. 

“That’s it; that was the difference. And that is why you have the differences now in the systems, our system, the Mozambican system, Namibia, Angola, on one side – different from South Africa. 

"They (the ANC) left the very persons they said had imposed apartheid on them in control of the resources. Praise God, if the future will yield for them true independence.

“And Gwede Mantashe was foolishly reacting to what I had said. That’s it, it’s the truth: South Africa is not as free as the other countries of SADC.

“There’s greater freedom for the whites than there is for the blacks. The whites have the industries, they can pride themselves on ‘this is my company, that is my company, this is my farm’. How far can the Africans go in doing the same in South Africa? 

“They don’t want it said. We must say it, because we went to war together. We assisted also in the fight against apartheid, as indeed they also assisted us. We were assisting each other, we were in the same trenches.”

Speaking to The Star last night, Mantashe said he would not back down on his earlier statement this week. He said Zimbabwe’s challenge was economic and Zanu-PF had presided over that country’s decline. 

“They need to give South Africa space so that we can fix this country,” said Mantashe.

Independent Media