BY Richard Muponde

GOVERNMENT yesterday said President Emmerson Mnangagwa would not apologise over the alleged “insensitive and tasteless jokes” he made during a clean-up campaign in Harare’s Kuwadzana high-density suburb on Friday.

Mnangagwa torched a storm last week after he jokingly said he would not hesitate to deploy the army to beat up the suburb’s residents for causing the prolonged dry spell and also dissuaded citizens from eating meat but vegetables which he said were healthy.

Information secretary Ndavaningi Mangwana said people should instead applaud Mnangagwa for his “pro-poor” messages.

But, Mangwana defended the Zanu PF leader, saying: “There’s absolutely nothing the President should apologise for. In fact, the President should be applauded for his core message that government is committed to helping the poor and vulnerable to manage current economic challenges by putting in place social protection schemes which act as safety nests for these groups. He cited seven commodities which government was funding through subsidies.”

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“He then said that meat was not a priority and referred to the health risks associated with eating red meat and pointed to the health benefits that came with eating vegetables. Instead of being lampooned for making this statement, this should trigger a health campaign promoting the eating of vegetables and whole grain,” Mangwana said.

However, analysts and opposition politicians, including MDC leader Nelson Chamisa, who for long was the MP for Kuwadzana constituency, challenged Mnangagwa to publicly apologise over his joke.

Information deputy minister Energy Mutodi said instead Chamisa should publicly apologise to Zimbabweans for calling for imposition of sanctions on the country and disputing the outcome of the July 30 2018 presidential election.

“The President is first and foremost a citizen who can communicate anything with fellow citizens, including cracking jokes with Zimbabweans,” Mutodi said.

“Chamisa is the one with a lot to apologise to Zimbabweans for calling for sanctions, disputing election results where he was clearly defeated and even giving false hope to his supporters.”