HARARE – Election campaigns often bring the worst in politicians as depicted by President Robert Mugabe’s out-of- sorts utterances denigrating South African diplomat Lindiwe Zulu by labelling her “a street woman”.
Such a coarse description of women goes against the grain of modern trends that emphasise promotion and advocacy of gender-sensitivity in society.
Zulu represents the view of the South African government as Sadc facilitator.
An attack on her character amounts to derogating the sterling role and effort our southern neighbour and other countries in the region have played to discourage Zimbabwe from hurtling towards the brink.
And that kind of counsel can only come from those that believe the country deserves better than remain a pariah in the eyes of the rest of the world.
When leaders resort to appealing to personal considerations rather than to fact or reason and start reviling an individual instead of speaking on issues at hand, it sets a good example of very bad behaviour.
All President Jacob Zuma’s international relations advisor expected in her role on behalf of the facilitator she represents and the regional body that has been cushioning the president and his Zanu PF party from international criticism, is for Mugabe to live up to agreed tasks and honour promises.
Unfortunately, Mugabe and his colleagues view Lindiwe’s resolve in ensuring they stay on course as a challenge to primitive male chauvinism.
Mugabe’s statement is an affront to all respectable women that deserves an apology.
Women form a powerful political constituency in every party, in some cases serving as a bulwark of political units. It is critical, therefore that they be accorded reciprocal respect for any party to thrive and not contempt.
Obviously, it was beyond Mugabe’s purview to muster the import of his utterances were female party members to question his intentions when he flew off the handle in such a manner.
On one hand Mugabe appears to espouse a doctrine of equality of men and women in its entire sense, yet on the other he despises them as “idiotic street women” when they offer plum advice, effectively shutting them out of dialogue.
Mugabe would rather Lindiwe shied away and remained acquiescent in the face of renegade behaviour with the potential to throw Zimbabwe into a rabbit hole.
The public expects reason to prevail over emotion when it comes to issues of national concern, particularly during election campaigning.
It expects an enunciation of policies and intentions that take the country forward in order to make informed choices during polls.
Only a gullible electorate is ever impressed by impetuous utterances long on brinkmanship and very short in substance.