Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe has come under fire for saying that Zimbabwe is the second most highly developed country in Africa after South Africa. Mugabe made these claims Thursday during the ongoing World Economic Forum in Durban, South Africa, where he shared a podium with global leaders, including the UNESCO Special Envoy for Peace Forest Whitaker and Special Envoy for the African Union Peace Fund Donald Kaberuka. The aging president was responding to a claim by Anton du Plessis, the managing director of the Institute for Security Studies, that corruption and bad leaders have contributed to the problem of fragile states in Africa. “That’s not true,” President Mugabe laughingly retorted. “Zimbabwe is the most highly developed country in Africa. After South Africa, I want to see another country as highly developed.” Unfair Criticism
In his response, Mugabe accused the West of being unfair in its criticism of Zimbabwe, insisting that his country is not poor. He noted that Zimbabwe has a literacy rate of more than 90 percent, which is the highest in Africa, and further bragged that his country has 14 universities. “We have a bumper harvest, not only maize, but also tobacco and many other crops. We are not a poor country,” said Mugabe. Mugabe added that any country, including America, can be called “fragile,” underscoring that America had to go “on its knees” to beg China to save some of its companies. Collapsing Economy Under Mugabe’s 36-year rule, Zimbabwe has suffered recurring financial setbacks — some of which have crippled the country’s economy.
In 2008, the south African country suffered the worst hyperinflation in history, after Mugabe’s administration decided to print billions of bond notes to support the country’s empty coffers. This move saw Zimbabwe’s inflation rise to about 500 billion percent, rendering the entire society poor. While the 93-year-old president insists that his country is not poor, his Ministry of Finance was recently forced to reintroduce the bond notes to arrest the ongoing cash shortage. Experts have warned that these bond notes are likely to trigger an economic catastrophe and send the country back to the dark days. Zimbabweans are now rushing to withdraw the little money they have left in the bank, fearing that the bond notes are likely to render local currencies valueless. Since July 2016, many Zimbabweans have been calling on Mugabe to resign, saying he has lost touch with the realities on the ground. The veteran politician has dismissed these calls, though, and promised to run for another term in the coming elections.