Published September 13, 2012
JOHANNESBURG, South Africa — Robert Mugabe has sparked a tiff with Jamaica by describing the Caribbean island as a nation of pot smokers where men are always drunk.
Zimbabwe's president doesn't smoke or drink. In a speech last week he said he wished Zimbabweans wouldn't follow in Jamaica's footsteps.
Mugabe, 88, said that "in Jamaica they have the freedom to spoke mbanje" (marijuana), and "the men are always drunk," Zimbabwe's Daily News reported.
Jamaica's universities are full of women because "the men want to sing and do not go to colleges, some are dreadlocked," Mugabe said during his speech at the Research and Intellectual Expo 2012 in Harare, the privately owned newspaper reported.
More from GlobalPost: Zimbabwe lawmakers circumcised at Parliament
Mugabe's comments received widespread media coverage in Jamaica, where they were criticized by Jamaican politicians and musicians.
Jamaican reggae icon Bob Marley played during Zimbabwe's independence celebrations in 1980, and even wrote a song titled "Zimbabwe" to support the fight against white minority rule in the country formerly known as Rhodesia.
Jamaica’s foreign affairs minister AJ Nicholson said he was trying to verify Mugabe's remarks.
"We strongly reject the suggestions contained in the news item," Nicholson said in a statement. "Jamaica is a nation characterized by adherence to democratic principles and the rule of law.
"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," he said.
"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."
More from GlobalPost: Zimbabwe thief Lovemore Manyika begs for life in prison
Jamaican opposition leader Andrew Holness said Mugabe's statements should be "repudiated," pointing to the successes of sprinter Usain Bolt, a six-time Olympic gold medalist, and an example of a Jamaican man who does not abuse alcohol or drugs.
"I think the characterization of Jamaican males by a leader of a country is quite unfortunate," Holness told Jamaica's Daily Gleaner.
Christopher Tufton, an opposition spokesman, told the Gleaner that Mugabe's remarks were "in poor taste" and the Zimbabwean president should give back the Order of Jamaica, an honor he received in 1996.
“I think he should be called on to provide an explanation as to what he meant. It is inappropriate and, frankly speaking, rude. He should apologize to the Jamaican people.
“Now that he has that impression of Jamaica, then perhaps he should consider returning the award and I have no difficulty with that. He has insulted the Jamaican people,” Tufton is quoted as saying.
More from GlobalPost: Zimbabwe: Robert Mugabe's motorcade in three deadly accidents in two weeks