Harare – US President Donald Trump’s “America First” policy has an admirer in Zimbabwe’s longtime president, who says the policy resonates with his own thinking.
President Robert Mugabe, who turned 93 on Tuesday and is the world’s oldest head of state, spoke in a birthday interview with state-run media.
“When it comes to Donald Trump, on the one hand talking of American nationalism, well, America for America, America for Americans – on that we agree. Zimbabwe for Zimbabweans,” he said.
Mugabe has previously defended Trump, even saying he didn’t want Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton to win last year’s election.
He also said he hoped Trump’s administration would remove sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe more than a decade ago over alleged human rights abuses and electoral irregularities.
But Mugabe questioned Trump’s plan to build a wall on the Mexican border. “It appears quite nasty. I don’t know how the Mexicans will take it. I thought the Americans once loved Mexico,” he said. “I don’t know. Give him time. He might come up with better policies.”
A large birthday celebration is scheduled for Saturday in tribute to Mugabe, who has ruled since independence from white minority rule in 1980 and vows to stand again in elections next year.
In the interview with state media, Mugabe also described his wife Grace, an increasingly political figure, as “fireworks” because of her feisty remarks in his defense.
The 51-year-old first lady has hotly defended her husband against critics who say it is time for him to step down, declaring last week that the ruling party should field him as a corpse if he dies before the election.
“Fireworks, isn’t it?” the president said of her remarks, laughing.
Grace Mugabe’s political rise has been a source of consternation for opposition figures as well as some officials within the ruling ZANU-PF party who suspect she is positioning herself for a more powerful role in the government.
The president described her as “very much accepted by the people” and said the women’s wing of the ruling party had chosen his wife as its head because of her political ambitions.
He described her as “well-seasoned” and “a very strong character.”
Mugabe also repeated his pledge to stand in 2018 elections despite calls from some Zimbabweans for him to quit amid economic turmoil in the once-prosperous country. The president said he was still popular and nobody is qualified to replace him.
“The volume of wishes for the president to stand, the number of people who will be disappointed is galore and I don’t want to disappoint them,” he said.
During the interview, Mugabe often gestured to emphasize points. He spoke slowly and was slumped into a leather armchair most of the time.