Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe issued an executive order today banning the color white from his southern African country.
Speaking at a press conference in the capital Harare, the controversial, octogenarian leader said the order would immediately outlaw the possession of all white-colored objects and mandate harsh prison sentences for those found to be non-compliant.
Mugabe explained the ban would rid the country of the white color's "harmful colonial legacy" and bring great benefits to the black majority of Zimbabwe.
“Nothing good has ever come from something white,” Mugabe said, “Zimbabwe and Africa have suffered at the hands of this imperial color for too long. Its presence has brought nothing but recession, lawlessness, and hyperinflation. White is a troublesome plague on our revolutionary nation and therefore everything that is colored white must go.”
Mugabe added that his order does not include a grandfather clause allowing white objects that are already in the country to remain.
“If you have a white house, you must paint it," Mugabe explained, "A white dog? You must dye it. White rice? You must throw away and order brown. Toilet paper? You must quickly sully until you can procure pink.”
Reports have been emerging from all over the country of citizens painting their refrigerators black for fear of government reprisals. Local paint stores are said to be out of stock, and smugglers are beginning to bring in canisters from South Africa to cover the shortfall. The government is also reportedly preparing to spend billions on a new cloud-seeding technology that will turn clouds green.
Hank Kingsley, an Africa analyst at Barclays bank in London, says the new ban will likely further erode Zimbabwe's confidence with international investors and creditors.
"I don't think this strange policy is going to destroy the country's economy," Kingsley admits, " but business people are surely going to be scratching their heads saying 'Hey now... Do I really want to be investing in this oddball country?' "
The Color of Excellence
Mugabe, 88, has been the leader of Zimbabwe since 1980. He played a pivotal and widely praised role in the struggle for independence and black-majority rule against the white minority-controlled Rhodesia.
In recent years, however, Mugabe has been condemned for human rights abuses and for his land redistribution policies, in which commercial white farmers have been driven off their land by mobs. The program and other Mugabe policies has caused a steep decline in the once-prosperous economy.
Zimbabwe’s presidential election is due this year, with Mugabe’s Zanu-PF party challenging the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).
Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, a leader of the MDC who is expected to challenge Mugabe for the presidency, said he was “shocked” by Mugabe’s proposed ban and vowed to overturn it if elected president.
But in an interview published Friday with the government-run Herald newspaper, Mugabe said he thinks a ban on the color white will have widespread support among "the groups of people whose opinions I will listen to."
Mugabe added that he thinks fellow African leaders in neighboring countries such as South Africa, Mozambique, Namibia, Botswana and Angola should follow his lead and also ban the "colonial color".
When asked if the proposed ban on white was motivated by racism toward white people - who still make up a small minority of Zimbabwe's population - Mugabe dismissed the idea outright.
“It’s ridiculous to call me a racist. One of my best friends is white,” Mugabe said. "He's from Switzerland and he helps me hide all my money."