Harare (Zimbabwe): Zimbabwe`s long-time President Robert Mugabe says he doesn`t want anyone to be fooled by his impeccable Western style of dress and his precise, teacherly use of English: He is African through and through.
"I am not British, I am not a colonial product because I am a complete Zimbabwean," he told graduates at Great Zimbabwe University near the remains of the 13th Century walled city, for which Zimbabwe, the former colony of Rhodesia, is named.
Addressing the students earlier this month, Mugabe had typically harsh words for Africa`s former white rulers.
"They think their right is to rob others of their resources," he said. But black Africans have the right to their own natural wealth and must "remain true" to local values after centuries of colonial rule that brought foreign cultures to the continent, he added.
The ascetic, austere Mugabe is a tough critic of the West, but he has been described as an anglophile and is known as a stickler for ceremony and detail. At the graduation, he wore a sash, robe and mortarboard, academic regalia used in some of Britain`s most conservative universities.
Mugabe warns, however, that his Western appearance can deceive. He said the nation`s former British colonizers thought he admired all things British and had a British "way of thinking."
After Zimbabwe`s independence in 1980, "they said publicly the problem with Mugabe is that he thinks like us," said the 89-year-old former teacher who was handed power as Zimbabwe`s first black leader by heir to the British throne Prince Charles and the departing British colonial governor in 1980.
"Goodness me! How can I think like them?" said Mugabe. "I would be a rotten thinker to think like them."
But he does dress like them, and requires other Zimbabweans to do so, too. Since 1980, Mugabe has insisted on a strict suit and tie dress code among ministers and lawmakers in the Harare parliament.
The former guerrilla leader quickly abandoned Chinese-style Mao jackets in favor of tailored business suits with color-coordinated neckties, breast pocket handkerchiefs and matching accessories, sometimes including flowers in the buttonhole of his lapel.