Supporters of defeated candidate Nelson Chamisa claimed UK envoy Catriona Laing endorsed President Mnangagwa by wearing his trademark scarf at Downing Street earlier this year.
‘She’s trying to put lipstick on the Crocodile’: Britain’s ambassador to Zimbabwe sparks controversy by wearing trademark scarf of newly re-elected President Mnangagwa
- Supporters of defeated candidate Nelson Chamisa claimed UK’s Catriona Laing endorsed President Emmerson Mnangagwa by wearing his trademark scarf
- ‘Putting lipstick on a crocodile’ barb is a reference to Mnangagwa’s nickname
- Ex-Zimbabwean cabinet minister Jonathan Moyo accused Ms Laing of wearing a ‘dictator’s voodoo scarf’ and endorsing a ‘mass murderer’
Britain’s ambassador to Zimbabwe was last night accused of ‘putting lipstick on a crocodile’ by ‘cosying up’ to the winner of the country’s election.
Supporters of defeated candidate Nelson Chamisa claimed UK envoy Catriona Laing endorsed President Emmerson Mnangagwa by wearing his trademark scarf at Downing Street earlier this year.
They also claimed she failed to condemn Mr Mnangagwa’s brutal police crackdown on protests against his regime.
The ‘putting lipstick on a crocodile’ barb is a reference to Mr Mnangagwa’s ‘Crocodile’ nickname, which derives from his reputation for political cunning.
Claims that Ms Laing was ‘biased’ towards Mr Mnangagwa surfaced after she tweeted a photograph of herself outside No 10 in March wearing a scarf in the colours of Zimbabwe’s national flag.
Mr Mnangagwa is rarely seen in public without the scarf and it has become the emblem of his leadership. In her tweet, Ms Laing said she had had a ‘busy and productive week’ in the UK. A delighted Mr Mnangagwa was first to respond on Twitter, telling her that Zimbabwe’s prospects were ‘as bright and positive as your wonderful scarf’.
Ex-Zimbabwean cabinet minister Jonathan Moyo accused Ms Laing of wearing a ‘dictator’s voodoo scarf’ and endorsing a ‘mass murderer’.
An ally of Mr Chamisa told The Mail on Sunday: ‘Putting lipstick on a crocodile shouldn’t work, but it didn’t stop the ambassador trying.
‘Everyone who has cosied up to this monster should be ashamed after his narrow win. He could have lost if more powerful people had stood up to him.’
Ms Laing dismissed criticism of her scarf as ‘absurd conspiracy theories’. It was a ‘Christmas present from the designer’ and she ‘had it long before anyone else’.
She was ‘not supporting anyone or anything other than a better future for Zimbabwe’, she said. She also denied backing police violence.
There was similar criticism in 2016 when a photograph of a beaming Ms Laing and Mr Mnangagwa appeared after her ‘courtesy call’ to his headquarters in Harare.
The British Embassy denied Ms Laing had sided with Mr Mnangagwa, saying it had spent £24 million on trying to ensure a fair election.
‘Would we bother if we wanted one candidate to win?’ said a British diplomat.
The Foreign Office announced in June that Ms Laing is leaving Zimbabwe to become Ambassador to Nigeria. Insiders deny it is linked to the crocodile scarf affair.
Supporters of Mr Chamisa say that President Mnangagwa’s victory was achieved by election fraud.