KINGSTON, Jamaica, Wednesday September 12, 2012 – A diplomatic row could be brewing and Jamaicans are understandably outraged over derogatory remarks allegedly made about their country by Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe.
The veteran African leader reportedly referred to Jamaica as “a country of marijuana smokers where women are now taking charge since men are always sloshed”.
Mugabe was also quoted as saying that while marijuana is illegal in Jamaica, citizens are free to smoke and that men are always drunk, while universities were full of women.
In the face of these revelations, the Jamaica government says it is seeking clarification before it makes a full response.
According to Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade Minister AJ Nicholas, Kingston is seeking to verify the statement before Prime Minister Portia Simpson-Miller responds fully, but in the meantime he would remind Mugabe that “Jamaica is a nation characterized by adherence to democratic principles and the rule of law”.
“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, be it in the field of politics, diplomacy, medicine, science and technology, or sports and culture, among many others,” the minister said in a statement.
“We take immense pride in the acknowledged contribution that Jamaica has made to the liberation of southern Africa and are gratified that nations such as South Africa and Zimbabwe enjoy the right to choose their own destiny.”
Nicholas noted that Jamaicans have played their roles in the development of Africa and the African Diaspora, adding “we need not remind that Jamaicans such as Marcus Garvey, Michael Manley, Bob Marley and Dudley Thompson have advocated for and inspired generations of our brothers and sisters both in Africa and in the African Diaspora.
“We believe that our contribution to the promotion of peace and social justice is recognized and appreciated by all well thinking people across the globe.”
Meanwhile, prominent educator Professor John Rapley said the comments made by Mugabe about Jamaicans should not come as a shock.
Rapley, a former research associate at the International Growth Centre at the London School of Economics and Political Science of the Caribbean Policy Research Institute, said that this is not the first time Mugabe has made unflattering comments about Jamaicans and Rastafarians in particular.
Mugabe has visited Jamaica and its Rastafarian community and was conferred with Jamaica’s fourth highest honour, the Order of Jamaica, in 1996 for his fight against apartheid.
Zimbabwe has also enjoyed diplomatic support from Jamaica and other Caribbean nations in the past, but Mugabe’s relations with the Caribbean have cooled in recent years.