Mugabe loves statue of himself, locals not sure
11 September 2016, 23:54
Cape Town - The clenched fist, the set upper lip and that oh-so-slightly sunken chest: Zimbabwe's best-known sculptor Dominic Benhura has captured President Robert Mugabe in his trademark pose in a brand new creation.
But many locals aren't impressed.
Posing next to the unsmiling giant sculpture at State House in Harare, Mugabe called it ''wonderful'' and said the sight of it had stimulated "a kind of love", according to the official Herald newspaper.
Benhura, 48, presented Zimbabwe's longtime leader with the springstone sculpture on Friday, according to the report. The statue stands more than twice as high as the president and has him wearing his familiar grey suit (complete with three black buttons) and a tie. His bespectacled face is set sternly and his right fist held stiffly in the air.
The Herald quoted the clearly-flattered Mugabe as saying: "In a sense, to see oneself reproduced this way and that way - replicated, it's something that should be more appreciated than just by saying thank you."
Online, many Zimbabweans had absolutely no intention of saying thank you.
Zimbabwe is currently plunged into unprecedented social discontent that Mugabe insists is funded by the West. Despite a ban on demonstrations - prolonged by a court in Harare this week - flash protests are still occurring as opponents of Mugabe try to register their anger with the poverty and corruption that now characterise much of Zimbabwe 36 years into the president's rule.
Asked former finance minister Tendai Biti on Twitter: "We don't question artists but what was going on in the mind of this artist as he chiselled this stone for years?" (Actually, Benhura says the statue took him six months to make.)
Another Zimbabwean quipped: "He's certainly no Leonardo da Vinci."
According to the Herald, Benhura said he wanted his statue to make a "strong impression".
But Jealously Mawarire, a spokesperson for the Zimbabwe People First opposition party wasn't the only one who thought the award-winning sculptor may actually have had a cunning plan.
He said in a tweet: "Maybe [Benhura] was thinking, let me immortalise this evil for posterity to learn how not to run a country."
A report from the state broadcasting corporation ZBC in January appears to show the statue was finished and mounted then. But it - and a second sculpture by a group of three artists - were reportedly only officially handed over to Mugabe last week.