Best News & Current Affairs Blog (2011 & 2012) and Jamaican Blogger of the Year (2011) at The Jamaica Blog Awards.

Mugabe’s Inconvenient Truth


I’m always amused at the indignation Jamaicans demonstrate whenever the truth is spoken about our nation’s realities from beyond our shores. You will remember my defence of Rihanna’s “Man Down” video, and its depiction of Jamaican culture and society. This time I’m compelled to agree with Zimbabwe’s president, Robert Mugabe, in his recent pronouncements on Jamaica, at least in part and in principle. While there were sweeping generalisations in the 88 year old’s comments, we should not be quick to throw out the baby with the bathwater. There is a certain truth behind his statements, inconvenient though it may be.

Robert Mugabe has been the President of Zimbabwe since he expelled Europeans from that country in 1980. Mugabe first served as Prime Minister from 1980 – 1987, and he has been President since then. Under Mugabe’s leadership, Zimbabwe has been plagued by chronic social and economic hardships. Zimbabwe is one of the only, if not the only, country in the world classified as having super/hyper inflation. The situation is so severe that the country has a $1,000,000,000 note; I have seen the note on a recent trip to Cork, Ireland. The young lady who showed it to me, a national of Zimbabwe, revealed it could only buy a half loaf of bread and two eggs. Besides economic hardships, the country is burdened by social unrest, political corruption, diseases and various other ills. Mugabe has consistently earned for himself international condemnation and calls for him to step down as leader.

While giving a public lecture, the controversial leader, who was awarded the Order of Jamaica (OJ) in 1996, is said to have challenged his people not to take the path Jamaica has taken. According to Mugabe, “In Jamaica, they have freedom to smoke marijuana, men are always drunk and universities are full of women. The men want to sing, and do not go to college. Let us not go there.” Now, the first reaction is to be angry, naturally. How could a leader of one of the worst countries in the world launch such a blistering and unprovoked attack on Jamaica? What’s more, Jamaicans have supported Mugabe in the past, many of our artistes giving concerts for the leader and Sizzla even celebrated him as a good leader and one of his “fathers from Africa”. After our anger has subsided, we need to look at the situation and ask ourselves, is there any truth to Mugabe’s claims? I conclude there is.

You see, the chronic and deplorable situation in Zimbabwe does not invalidate Mugabe’s assessment of Jamaica. While we would ideally like Mugabe to abide by the time honoured “take the beam out of your own eye before you attempt to remove the spec from your neighbour’s”, the truth is that Mugabe is not a man of principle, he is a tyrant. We shouldn’t expect any sort of fairness or gratitude from him, we have to move beyond that and look at the reality. First of all, do our men smoke marijuana? Yes. Do a lot of Jamaican men partake in this pastime? Yes. Do our artistes and ordinary Jamaicans repeatedly call for the legalisation of marijuana? Yes. Do our nationals argue police should “low di yute dem wid di spliff and guh tackle real crime”? Yes. So while Mugabe is wrong that we have the “freedom” to smoke it (the practice is illegal), the principle behind the observation is correct. Many of our men, and I’d venture to say the majority, especially in the lower classes, celebrate the smoking of marijuana and would rather it legalised.

Secondly, universities are full of women. I have ignored the latent sexism in the comment, because I don’t believe we can expect better from him. Still, the comment rings true. Former Prime Minister Edward Seaga revealed that the ratio of female to male on the UWI, Mona campus was 80:20. Again, Mugabe is not wrong. The vast majority of those enrolled in universities on our island nation are females. What’s further troubling is that only 4% of our population is reportedly matriculating to university, and perhaps 1% of that is male. Jamaica is facing a serious issue where male marginalisation is concerned. Many of our young men have indeed abandoned the idea of education, in favour of the quick money of being an “artiste”. Take a look at your timeline on Twitter, how many DJs are there? How many young men do you know waiting for a “buss”? Our society has elevated the “music ting” and our boys are moving towards that instead of towards education. This is particularly true of inner city young men who emulate our dancehall artistes. Now of course the situation in Zimbabwe is the same, perhaps much worse, but Mugabe is still correct in his assessment. I repeat, Zimbabwe’s realities do not invalidate our own.

I think what we should allow it to do is spur us to a higher purpose. As Jamaicans we should work at ensuring that no tyrant, no country in the world should be able to make those comments about us. Instead of arguing that Zimbabwe is worse than us, which I believe suggests a sort of complacency about our nation’s realities. In fact, a friend of mine commented that he would have felt better about the comments had they come from the Trinidadian Prime Minister, and I’m sure many of us share this opinion. If a country that was better off than us made the comments, we would perhaps be more comfortable. That is not acceptable. We should begin to confront our problems head on, use Mugabe’s attack on our national pride to become the Jamaica that can stand to scrutiny. Finally, the fact that Mugabe is a tyrant who leads one of the worst countries in the world does not discount the truth in his statements. We cannot, and should not ignore him because his country is in the situation it is in. I do not deny that his comments invoke anger and disbelief, but I’m just saying once the anger has subsided, perhaps it is time to face Mugabe’s inconvenient truth.

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31 responses

  1. Comrade Smitty

    Although I see where you are trying to get at, I must say that your attempt to play devil’s advocate failed in the following areas that lack statistical evidence:
    1. The marijuana argument
    2. The Artist argument

    Your reasoning based on what must clearly be a feeling towards both is extremely flawed. Neither of them are truths that hold any statistical significance. The majority of Jamaicans may have tried a spliff in their day, but the majority does not smoke ganja, similarly to the fact that majority of Jamaicans don’t smoke altogether.
    Secondly, there are more persons striving to be accountants, doctors, lawyers, engineers and other professionals, than their are those who are seeking to be musicians. You may look at the disenfranchised ‘ghetto youth’ and see most of them attempting to branch off or lean towards that profession, but if you do so then you clearly have no been into a ghetto community. There are more youngsters and even adults aiming to be sound system selectors or disc jocks than their are persons aiming to be musicians. A prime example of this is the numerous repeat contestants (over 60%) that enter local talent search competitions across the island. More Jamaicans are aiming for steady stable jobs than the inconsistency of income related to being an artist.

    In essence, Mugabe is woefully wrong and clearly had verbal diahrrea when he chose to speak on a country that he may have only seen euphamistic headlines about. I’m sure if you ask him, he will agree that 70% of Jamaicans are rastafarians too.

    Playing devil’s advocate maybe fun, but try to do so when statistical proof is on your side.

    September 9, 2012 at 5:26 pm

    • Thanks for taking the time to comment. I’ve realised Jamaica’s realities differ according to vantage point, so I won’t argue with you whether ganja is smoked my the majority. I made the point that a significant majority of the “ghetto yutes” smoke ganja, and I stand by that. I also stand by the claim that a lot of young men are seeking jobs in the music industry, be it as actually singers, or as sound engineers, whatever it is, they are opting for the relative quick success from music, as opposed to going to study. Your own comment lends evidence, 60% repeat contestants, obviously they find the music career more appealing than going to study. Our anger and hurt pride blinds us to the truth in Mugabe’s comments. Our pride may eventually lead to our nation’s ultimate demise. Again, thanks for taking the time to comment.

      September 9, 2012 at 5:33 pm

    • Jamaican Man

      Word!

      September 12, 2012 at 12:33 pm

  2. Reblogged this on Mali’s World and commented:
    WELL SAID…

    September 9, 2012 at 5:27 pm

  3. Well said Ricardo. There is an element of truth to his commentary, h/e tyrannical he may be, or h/e minimal the actual research numbers may be.

    September 9, 2012 at 5:34 pm

    • Thanks Mali. I think that’s the problem, we don’t want to acknowledge that there’s truth because actual number in terms of ganja smokers are minimal. I think we’d be better served directing our anger at fixing our problems than being angry and complacent.

      September 9, 2012 at 5:42 pm

  4. george

    zimbabwe now uses U.S. currency , nice Blog entry though

    September 9, 2012 at 6:50 pm

  5. Kingsley Morgan

    Great article. It is never easy to accept criticism, scruntunity or any form of negative evaluation from someone you consider below yourself (in this case an inferior nation to a superior one). But why should the source of the reprimand matter if it points to the reality of social and economic ills that need to be addressed? Our pride as a nation was marred and though we are angry, we should also be ashamed. Let us take positives from this “diss” by focusing on abating our economic and social problems consequently giving fewer persons the opportunity to be audacious.

    September 10, 2012 at 12:06 am

    • wailers

      Kingsley Morgan – Please may you enlighten me why Jamaicans would consider Mugabe (Zimbabweans) to be below themselves or why one should consider Jamaica to be a superior nation to Zimbabwe.

      September 18, 2012 at 11:38 am

  6. I am sure our “male singers”will “go there” & respond in their usual witty and melodic way.

    September 10, 2012 at 8:34 am

  7. Professor X

    Statistics will prove that there is no proof to Mugabe’s comments. They are merely perceptions that should never be repeated by anyone from Jamaica unless they have facts to say otherwise. Our situation in Jamaica is no different from the USA where their young men gravitate to rap and the “quick dollar” from drug trade. That is the way of the world especially in depressed environments where “parents” are few and far in between, the main avenue of legal survival lies within Music or Sports, fact of life anywhere in the world. Parents or family members who don’t have a 9-5 cannot assist in securing student loans, facts of life. We all know the problem, so let’s start hearing more about resolutions rather than underscoring the obvious

    September 10, 2012 at 11:01 am

  8. Hmm. Playing devil’s advocate I see. OK, I’ll play along.

    I also stand by the claim that a lot of young men are seeking jobs in the music industry, be it as actually singers, or as sound engineers, whatever it is, they are opting for the relative quick success from music, as opposed to going to study.

    ‘A lot’ and ‘a majority’ are two completely different things.

    Your own comment lends evidence, 60% repeat contestants,

    If the majority are repeat contestants, then that means that less and less new contestants are applying. Thus the talent pool is stagnant.

    Mugabe may be right on the ‘what is’ with regards to our universities, but he is completely wrong on the ‘why.’ You see the school fees for school now? Anybody still believe that government pays 80 percent for tuition? You all saw how Utech wouldn’t allow that woman to return to school because she owed one dollar, yeah? Like most Jamaicans. Mugabe has identified the symptoms, but misdiagnosed the disease.

    September 10, 2012 at 11:26 am

  9. chris

    people don’t talk what you don’t know more than half of the Jamaican population don’t even smoke and where do people like you get off talking about men wanting only to join the music industry look if you haven’t been hungry or been to a poor community don’t talk like what Mr Mugabe said is true in fact Jamaicans in every way try to uplift themselves and if you spoke to some of those weed smokers you would see that its because of peer pressure they end up smoking so please don’t talk about weed smoking because some of the smartest people smoke weed and i don’t see it being a problem to their lifes

    September 10, 2012 at 1:11 pm

  10. Jamaican Man

    “Many of our men, and I’d venture to say the majority, especially in the lower classes, celebrate the smoking of marijuana and would rather it legalised.”

    The MAJORITY? How many men around you have a spliff in their hand? Around me, it’s hard to even find a man with a cigarette. And women are smokers too. Liar!

    “Many of our young men have indeed abandoned the idea of education, in favour of the quick money of being an “artiste”. Take a look at your timeline on Twitter, how many DJs are there? How many young men do you know waiting for a “buss”? Our society has elevated the “music ting” and our boys are moving towards that instead of towards education.”

    How many men are in the army, police, on construction sites, driving buses and taxis, bartenders, barbers, bakers, waiters, plumbers and even farm work cane cutters, doctors, dentists, engineers, architects, graphic artists, web developers, system engineers, electricians, mechanics etc? And how many are into music? Liar!

    September 10, 2012 at 3:17 pm

  11. Thank goodness our youth have that option to become part of the music industry could you imagine a Jamaica without the youths having that dream. You should never look down on it because not everyone can afford to become a lawyer or a doctor but they can be a part of a sound system become sound engineer and parlay that into corporate work, stage production and such. Great article though

    September 10, 2012 at 4:08 pm

    • I’m really happy everyone is so engaged on this matter. Maybe it will spur us to address the elements of truth in Mugabe’s comments.

      September 10, 2012 at 4:20 pm

  12. Farai

    I am Zimbabwean and the majority of Zimbabwean youth admire Jamaican youth culture which they think is about listening to reggea or and or the dancehall type,smoking weed(here it is called mbanje ,the most powerful comes from Malawi),sex and Haille Selassie.It is caused by the type of Jamaican music videos and movies which make it to Zimbabwe and showcase near pornography ,pornography ,drug abuse and violence(eg some Elephant man videos).This has created an element of negativity to Jamaican music and culture by authorities as it has contributed to the ruin in the lives of several young people who try to literally follow what is potrayed in the videos instead of taking it as just entertainment.My uncle ruined his life when he started following Bob Marley(smoked weed,listened to reggea all day long and stopped being serious at school),a classmate of mine became mentally unstable a year before he was due to write cambridge O level due to following the bad aspects of Jamaican culture.You Jamaicans should know that you have a massive infuence on African youth and its your duty to guide them in doing good things.I love your music but i dont take the message literally.Love you all love to visit Kingstone but dont have the money.Peace

    September 11, 2012 at 9:46 am

  13. Ras Thomas Mugabe

    I’m from Zim and my question is if you say smoking is illegal in your country,why i’ve seen in some of live show with the artists smoking on stage.There was also a video by Capleton sharing weed with Luciano(the messanger) and never heard them being arrest.So how do you deny that it is legal.

    September 11, 2012 at 11:52 am

    • Unfortunately, the law isn’t always enforced in Jamaica as it ought to be. That is a failure of law enforcement, but I assure you the use of marijuana is illegal in Jamaica.

      September 11, 2012 at 12:22 pm

  14. Jamaican Man

    @Ras Thomas Mugabe

    Vybz Kartel Gets Arrested In Jamaica For Marijuana Possession!

    POPULAR DEEJAY MOSES ‘Beenie Man’ Davis was arrested yesterday and charged with breaches of the Dangerous Drug and Road Traffic acts.

    http://forum.dancehallreggae.com/showthread.php/6650-BEENIE-MAN-ARRESTED

    September 11, 2012 at 12:52 pm

  15. Jamaican Man

    @Ras Thomas Mugabe

    Land Of Wood, Water And A Lot Less Weed

    A popular joke among ganja lovers back in the day was that “Jamaica is the land of wood, water, and weed.” But at the rate the police’s ganja-eradication drive is going, that quip may soon hold little water.

    Police statistics show that up to September, ganja seizures surpassed last year’s take by 11,000 kilograms.

    According to the police, 28,354 ‘kilos’ was seized locally between January and September, compared to 17,035 kilos for the corresponding period last year.

    September was a good month for the police as they seized 1,676.93 kilos of ganja, approximately 100 kilos more than September 2009.

    There was also a jump in the clampdown on ganja land. Police figures reveal that 21.965 hectares of ganja were eradicated in September, compared to 19.43 in 2009.

    Read more: http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20101010/lead/lead3.html

    September 11, 2012 at 1:04 pm

  16. Jamaican Man

    So you think Jamaican men are nothing but singers and ganja smokers? Check this:

    PROMINENT Jamaican scientist Dr Henry Lowe has been made a member of the prestigious American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) based on the quality of scientific research, particularly in the area of prostate cancer.

    Dr Lowe was nominated by Angela Brodie, professor of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics, and Amy Fulton, professor of Pathology, both outstanding medical research scientists from the University of Maryland Medical School, a news release from the Environmental Health Foundation said.

    Membership in the AACR is only offered to outstanding scientific and medical researchers from all over the world, who can be sponsored by existing members in good standing.
    Dr Lowe’s membership became effective in the last quarter of 2011.

    The AACR was founded in 1907 by a group of 11 physicians and scientists interested in research “to further the scientific investigation and spread the knowledge about the management of cancer”. It is the oldest and largest scientific organisation in the world focused on every aspect of high-quality, innovative cancer research.

    The AACR’s reputation for scientific breadth and excellence attracts the premier researchers in the field. Its programmes and services foster the exchange of knowledge and new ideas among scientists dedicated to cancer research, provide training opportunities for the next generation of cancer researchers, and increase public understanding of cancer.

    Dr Lowe, who won the Observer Business Leader Award for 2006, gained worldwide attention in 2010 after he announced that he and his research partner, Dr Joseph Bryant, had extracted powerful anti-cancer compounds from the Jamaican Ball Moss.

    The chemical compounds from Ball Moss or Old Man’s Beard, they said, has been demonstrated to kill prostate cancer and other cancer cells in vitro and in vivo.

    That research has so far resulted in them being awarded one major patent with four others under review.

    Since then, Dr Lowe has been invited to participate in a number of major drug development and cancer research meetings and conferences, among them the Ehrlich II Second World Conference on Magic Bullets in Germany which brings together clinical and pharmacological scientists. He was also specially invited to the BIT’s eighth Annual Congress of International Drug Discovery Science and Technology in Beijing, China in October 2010.

    Last week, Dr Lowe presented his latest novel cancer research work on Cycloartane-3,24,25,-triol, a cancer chemo preventative agent isolated from the Ball Moss, at the AACR Prostate Cancer Meeting in Orlando, Florida.

    Much of his research is geared to the commercial development of drugs for the management of cancers with special reference to prostate and breast cancers. As a result of his filed patents, Dr Lowe has started to publish details of several of his research findings at scientific conferences and in peer reviewed journals.

    As a medicinal chemist, he has designed and synthesised several analogues/derivatives from the bioactive isolates of some Jamaican medicinal plants, which, he said, show great promise as cancer drug candidates.

    Dr Lowe is a member of several major scientific organisations, including the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Harvard Medical School Post-graduate Association, American Association of Pharmaceutical Scientists, and the American Chemical Society. He is also a life member of the New York Academy of Sciences and a fellow of the Royal Society of Medicine, United Kingdom.

    Dr Lowe is an adjunct professor in the Department of Medicine, University of Maryland School of Medicine in the USA and a distinguished adjunct professor of Ethno-medicinal Chemistry at Jamaica’s University of Technology (UTech).

    He is the founder and executive chairman of the Bio-Tech R&D Institute of which UTech is a shareholder. The Bio-Tech R&D Institute was established for the purpose of helping Jamaican scientists and technologists to use science for wealth creation.

    http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Another-scientific-achievement-for-Dr-Lowe_10762778

    September 11, 2012 at 3:18 pm

    • Farai

      Glad to hear that.Now why dont you advertise the good aspects of Jamaica instead of letting us be bombarded by the negativity which makes it to Africa.People here (Zimbabwe) were actually suprised when they heard that Sean Paul has a degree(is it true ?).We need good Jamaican dancehall music which does not have lyrics about vaginas,alcohol,weed and burnin dem chichiman (i assure u the burning part will be taken literally).By the way what happened to Shabba Ranks he seems not to have released anything new lately.Say hi to Mr Vegas,Sizzla Kalonji,TOK,Mr Goofy,Red Rat,Zebra

      September 11, 2012 at 10:25 pm

  17. Jamaican Man

    “Sean Paul played for the national water polo team from the age of thirteen to twenty-one, when he gave up the sport in order to launch his musical career. He attended the Wolmers High School for Boys, Belair School, Hillel Academy High School, and the College of Arts, Science, and Technology, now known as the University of Technology, where he was trained in commerce with a view to pursuing an occupation in hotel management.” See more: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sean_Paul

    Shabba Ranks is making some new music but is in no rush to release his new tracks. See his latest interview on Jamaican TV:

    Part 1: http://vimeo.com/46544296
    Part 2: http://vimeo.com/46544295
    Part 3: http://vimeo.com/46544293
    Part 4: http://vimeo.com/46544292
    Part 5: http://vimeo.com/46544291

    September 12, 2012 at 12:18 pm

  18. Y’all niggas have high speed Internet in Zimbabwe?

    September 12, 2012 at 12:43 pm

    • Jamaican Man

      Why does my last comment say “Your comment is awaiting moderation.”?

      September 12, 2012 at 6:15 pm

    • Farai

      We do have internet even on mobile phones but they are still putting in the fibre optic cables to connect us through Mozambique to the sea cable because we are currently using the South African connection which tends to be slow especially in the afternoon due to the heavy S.African internet traffic.We started having widespread internet acces on m.phones sometime last year,before that one had to go to an internet cafe.Things have improved dramatically here ever since we started using the Rand,USD and Pula.Send Sean Paul here again for a gig ,his last gig was powerful.

      September 12, 2012 at 10:25 pm

  19. I agree somewhat with the writer of this post, Mugabe did hit home with some of his comments. The one with the most statistics to back it up is the one about there being mostly women in tertiary education. That is fact.
    Re the weed smoking, well, I don’t have any stats, but NUFF, NUFF, NUFF Jamaican men (and women) smoke weed. I see it being done everywhere I go, at work, in the clubs, on the street, yadda, yadda, yadda…. Why deny it? I am not going to go into whether this is a positive or a negative, but Jamaicans love weed. So what? People everywhere love weed! There was a guy who commented on here said he didn’t know many people who smoked cigarettes, much less weed. To him I say, take off your blinders! People are smoking all kinds of shit everywhere in Jamaica, whether it be cigarettes, weed, or crack cocaine. To the person who intimated that it was more endemic among the lower classes, I say that I know many people who are in the middle class and I know some who would be seen as being in the upper class who are all in the “high” class. 🙂 They do it at home, not “out a road” for everyone to see. Yard people love weed. Done talk.
    Again, I am not saying it is a positive or a negative. Some weed heads have done well for themselves, some have not. Not enough stats there for me to talk from, but I observe things.
    Re the music thing, well, I don’t have any data on that. except to say that more of the middle / upper class seems to be willing to “try a thing” musically now than when I was a yute….

    That is all.

    September 22, 2012 at 2:28 pm

  20. Wow that was odd. I just wrote an very long comment but after
    I clicked submit my comment didn’t show up. Grrrr… well I’m not
    writing all that over again. Anyhow, just wanted to say superb blog!

    May 2, 2013 at 7:42 pm

  21. Hey there! I know this is kinda off topic nevertheless I’d figured I’d ask.
    Would you be interested in exchanging links or maybe guest writing a
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    May 9, 2013 at 12:42 pm

  22. Zimbabwean

    I’m a Zimbabwean,first i would like to say we are 97.3% interms of education here though things were tough,but we didn’t sideline education in our sociaty.Currenty we are using US dollar and i have noticed everyone now is crambling for Zimbabwe not because of US dollar but because of Diamond,Gold,Platinum,Ethanol Fuel,Silver,Copper,Farming,Education etc….
    That’s why they impossed sanction on Zimbabwe because we told them go away and leave our own resources and it is our duty to select who we want to share and do business with.Our economy is getting better and as for now i’m being paid US $450.00 per month by the government for my services.Mugabe did a lot to this nation he gave land to black majority,free education,empowerment and indiginisation,buildinf more schools and universities.So me seh Robert Mugabe mi don dada cah everyting im touch looks briliant n mi seh gwee fi dem informa

    October 20, 2013 at 11:24 pm

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