In an article on corruption in Kenya, The New York Times attributed to Mr Mugabe these thoughts: “The people of East Africa shock me with their wizardry in stealing. You can even think there is a subject in their universities called Bachelor of Stealing.”
It went on with Mr Mugabe thinking Zimbabweans should be on “high alert” when visiting Kenya in case “they might infect you with that disease.”
The newspaper subsequently apologised after the Kenyan news magazine, The Spectator, admitted the quotes were “fabricated and intended as satire.”
The satirist must have been familiar with speech-making in Zimbabwe. It will be recalled that during past electioneering political opponents were warned by Mr Mugabe and his party that the leadership and the war veterans had “degrees in violence” from liberating the country.
And further, of the ZANU PF clenched fist salute: “See this first. It can smash your face.”
The vitriol in Mrs Mugabe’s new-found speech-making continued in this mould. She recently boasted that journalist and author Heidi Holland wrote bad things about her in the book Dinner With Mugabe and she prayed that God should prove which of them was an evil woman. Holland died in 2012. This was divine intervention. You see now.
And more from Mrs Mugabe: Ousted vice president Joice Mujuru was doomed to “stink in hell” and she and her followers “will be left naked and dogs will not come near you even if you put on perfume.”
None of it vindicates The New York Times, of course. Presidential spokesman George Charamba accused the newspaper of attempting to “contrive conflict” between Zimbabwe and Kenya.
He called the Times’ Kenya correspondent Jeffrey Gettleman “blunderous, if not an outright racist’’ who had lost any sense of journalistic ethics, the Chronicle in Bulawayo reported.
Gettleman said he had asked local colleagues to verify Mr Mugabe’s remarks and it was a mistake to believe them to be real. He wrote on Twitter: “Still getting nasty messages. I corrected the error, apologised and had no intention to mislead.”
Has anyone out there never made a mistake? he then asked. Poor fellow, now suitably embarrassed and chastised.
On the question of ethics, propaganda, inexperience, carelessness or sheer dishonesty, Zimbabwe’s own media has little to be proud of. The pot is calling the kettle black, or as they say in Ghana, the pin is calling the needle sharp.
In a Twitter storm after Gettleman’s article appeared a few days ago, several contributors warned against taking matters aired in the media and on social networks too literally.
The social networks have been showing ornate pictures purported to be of Mr Mugabe’s extravagance at his luxury Borrowdale mansion known as The Blue Roof.
We know it has a blue roof. ZTV has been admitted twice of late – once for daughter Bona’s wedding and the other for Mrs Mugabe’s 50th birthday. Neither occasion showed private interiors
The supposed interiors on the web have the curls and swirls of French Louis XIV-Versailles-style decor, hardly a local preference.
If this is indeed one of the bathrooms, how would Mr Mugabe, 92 next February, get in and out of the tub?