Zimbabwean president says he is not interested in French women or romantic visits, he just wants to develop relations
Paris, je t’aime? Non, says Robert Mugabe.
The charms of arguably the world’s most romantic city – and of French filles – are lost on Zimbabwe’s 89-year-old president, he revealed on Thursday.
“We do not want to visit France,” declared twice-married Mugabe. “I do not want your girls. I do not want to visit France for romantic purposes. I want to develop relations between us.”
Encountering new diplomats from France, Germany and the Netherlands, Mugabe’s unorthodox argument was aimed at persuading the European Union to lift sanctions against him and his inner circle. His Zanu-PF party has long blamed the sanctions for Zimbabwe’s economic meltdown over the past decade and claims their removal would get the country back on track.
“Can France have a national introspection and see whether it’s right to continue to pursue the policy of sanctions against Zimbabwe?” asked Mugabe, who has ruled for 33 years.
“We want the removal of economic sanctions so we can export beef to Europe. Let’s get to trade. Let our flowers find home in the Netherlands. Let our greens find their way into the Dutch market but for as long as there are sanctions, this will be difficult.”
European Union countries imposed travel bans and asset freezes after Zimbabwean elections more than a decade ago, which western observers said were rigged in Mugabe’s favour. “We must now look at the future and the need for sanctions to go,” he said.
The EU lifted most of its sanctions earlier this year, yet an asset freeze and travel ban remains for Mugabe and his close allies. The president’s supporters within Africa argue that the peaceful conduct of this year’s elections means the country deserves a fresh start.
But the EU and US, which also has sanctions in place, rejected the recent poll citing numerous irregularities including the non-availability of the voters roll. Earlier this week Zimbabwe complained that its foreign minister was denied diplomatic privileges when leaving John F Kennedy airport in New York after last month’s UN summit.
Mugabe’s antipathy is not reserved for the country of Brigitte Bardot – 10 years his junior – and Audrey Tautou alone. Asked earlier this year if he would like to visit Britain should sanctions be lifted, he told the Guardian: “Why? I’ve nothing to do in Britain, actually.”