THERE was a time when Europeans in the rebel state of Rhodesia dubbed Robert Mugabe and his freedom fighters 'Bob Mugabe and the Wailers'. It was an indirect tribute to Bob Marley and his band who inspired Mugabe and his men during their
fight for independence against the racist regime of Ian Smith.
Marley performed in Zimbabwe in April, 1980 to mark the end of white rule, while Robert Mugabe was sworn in as the new nation's first president. Marley and reggae remain massively popular in the country, but Mugabe has not endeared himself to many Jamaicans through statements he reportedly made last week.
According to Zimbabwean media, Mugabe told a gathering of dignitaries in the Zimbabwe capital Harare that Jamaica was "a country of marijuana smokers, where women are now taking charge since men are always sloshed". He expressed his fear that Zimbabwe would follow suit given the influence Jamaican pop culture
has on youth in the southern African country.
In the last five years, several reggae/dancehall artistes have performed to receptive crowds throughout Zimbabwe. They include Luciano, Mikey General, Fantan Mojah, Cocoa Tea and Sizzla.
Mikey General performed with Luciano in Harare in 2008. He said he is shocked at Mugabe's statement given the warm reception they received.
"The people in Zimbabwe have a great respect for Jamaicans, Bob Marley's song Zimbabwe is like a national anthem there," Mikey General told the Jamaica Observer. "What he said really shook
Mikey General says he and Luciano were guests of the government when they visited four years ago. They never met Mugabe but were hosted at a reception by vice-president Joice Mujuru.
"We got royal treatment... From I've been touring, it's the best I've been treated," he said.
Mugabe did meet Sizzla when the singer performed in Zimbabwe in early 2010. In fact, Sizzla was among the performers for celebrations marking the president's 86th birthday in February that year.
Sizzla also helped establish the Munuhpatuh recording studio in Harare while
he was there.
Marley dedicated his 1979 album, Survival, to militants in Africa who were fighting to rid their countries of European colonialism. Zimbabwe was one of the popular songs from the set which jacket was adorned with flags of various African nations.
Robert Mugabe has overcome several challenges to his rule in the last 15 years. During his visit to
Jamaica in 1996, he was awarded the Order of Jamaica by the government.