Zimbabwe is the most highly developed country in Africa, after South Africa, Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe has said.
Mugabe made a surprise appearance on a morning panel on fragile states at the World Economic Forum on Africa in Durban today.
He shared a stage with the likes of American actor Forest Whitaker, the Unesco Special Envoy for Peace, and Donald Kaberuka, the special envoy for the African Union Peace Fund.
Anton du Plessis from the Institute for Security Studies, after saying that corruption and bad leaders contributed to the problem of fragile states in Africa, asked Mugabe if he agreed that Zimbabwe was a failed state.
Laughing, Mugabe slowly said: “That isn’t true”. He continued: “Zimbabwe is the most highly developed country in Africa. After South Africa, I want to see another country as highly developed.”
He said his country sported 14 universities and had a literacy rate of over 90%, which was the highest in Africa. “And yet they talk about us as a fragile state,” he said.
“We have a bumper harvest, not only maize, but also tobacco and many other crops. We are not a poor country,” he said.
“If anyone wants to call us fragile, they can. You can also call America fragile,” he said to some in the audience laughing.
Mugabe said America had to go “on its knees” to China to save some of its companies. In response to an earlier question on whether African leaders were doing enough to address fragility, Mugabe said the issue was young people looking to government for jobs and food, which led to clashes between government supporters and the opposition.
There was also a clash of religious doctrines in some countries in the continent, he said.
Whereas splits in the Christian church didn’t lead to violence, he said it appeared that “in the Islamic world the belief is that the more violence you exert on the population, the more they listen”.
Mugabe said: “In Africa you also had a touch of the Muslim world in some countries, but in the south it wasn’t our experience, thank God.”