Tuesday, 27 September 2011

No Ordinary Bus - Robert Mugabe's Luxury Bus Protest Message

Protest message claims a series of attached photographs depict a luxuriously appointed coach that President of Zimbabwe Robert Mugabe bought himself despite the dire economic straits that nation is currently enduring.

There is no credible evidence to support the claim that the coach shown in the photographs is owned by Robert Mugabe. The pictures in the message depict a bus made by US based luxury coach builder, Newell.
Detailed Analysis

Robert Mugabe
This widely circulated message, which features a series of photographs depicting a luxuriously appointed motor home, claims the vehicle belongs to Robert Mugabe, President of Zimbabwe. The message decries Mugabe’s selfish indulgence given the dire economic predicament that Zimbabwe is currently enduring. The message asks that recipients pass on the information as a protest.

Mugabe certainly could be described as selfish and self-indulgent to say the least. That said, however, there are no credible reports that support the claim that the bus in these images actually belongs to Robert Mugabe. In fact, the very same images have been circulating – with nary a reference to Mugabe - since 2007. In fact, the bus in the photographs is one produced by the Newell Coach Corporation of Miami, Oklahoma.

Moreover, the bus in the photographs is clearly built to be used in a country where motorists drive on the right side of the road, as befitting its American origin. But, motorists in Zimbabwe drive on the left. One would think that, if Mugabe was willing to spend the very large amount of money required to buy a Newell bus, he would have at least ordered one compatible with his local road conditions.

The current story may have evolved from a 2007 report that claims that China gave Mugabe a luxury bus as a birthday present. A February 22nd 2007 report published on the “Monsters and Critics” website notes:
“Harare - China has given Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe a luxury coach for his 83rd birthday, the official Herald reported Thursday. The coach, meant for the use of Mugabe's family, was presented to the president by the Chinese ambassador to Zimbabwe, Yuan Nansheng on Wednesday.


Mugabe's coach was designed by China's First Auto Works (FAW), the company that is also supplying buses to Zimbabwe's state-run ZUPCO bus company.”
However, further details about this supposed gift remain sketchy. The same report about the gift has been republished on numerous other websites, but I could not find any other credible sources that confirm the claims in the article. Nor could I find any photographs of this Chinese made luxury bus.

That said, First Auto Works (FAW), has indeed had dealings with Mugabe. A 2005 press release on the FAW website describes a visit to the corporation by Mugabe and other Zimbabwean officials. Another FAW report notes that “50 right-hand-steering city buses produced by FAW were loaded onto a ship at the Shanghai Port and were ready to be exported to Zimbabwe in Africa”.

But, even if Mugabe was given a luxury bus by China, it is not the vehicle featured in the above photographs.

This protest message is quite reminiscent of another widely circulated email that featured a series of photographs depicting a large and luxurious mansion. The message falsely claimed that the mansion belonged to Robert Mugabe. In fact the pictures show a home located in the wealthy community of Bell Air, Los Angeles and have no connection whatsoever to Mugabe.

Given Mugabe’s reprehensible history of incompetence, criminal neglect of his people and dictatorial governance, one wonders why anyone would feel the need to actually make up such stories about him. His arrogant and destructive antics over many years would surely provide a great deal of easily verifiable ammunition for anyone intent on circulating protest messages about him.

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