So Mr Mugabe was accused in some sections of society of looking “scruffy” the other day when he appeared at a regional economic summit in Mauritius wearing an open-neck white shirt. His office obliged by saying it was his Cuban shirt and he sometimes wore it to identify with the ideology of the Cuban revolution.
Nothing about how it is rather warm and sultry in Mauritius at this time of year – just like it gets in Cuba. But shock, horror. Mr Mugabe was surrounded by fellow leaders and officials in Mauritius, all of them dressed neatly in suits and ties, the attire he normally strictly adheres to.
I happen to have the same Cuban shirt that I was given when I went to the Caribbean a few years ago. It is most comfortable and cool in the summer months. I sometimes put it on if I am visiting friends in the nightmarish government hospitals of Harare. In visiting hours, the crowds, wailing and gnashing their teeth, part for me like the Red Sea. I look like a doctor, probably a Cuban one.
This hoo-ha over the scruffy Mr Mugabe comes as the Public Service Commission has issued a strict new dress code for civil servants, saying dress standards have deteriorated considerably in public offices.
Shock, horror. Women are wearing “sleeveless tops, sleeveless dresses, strapped dresses and blouses, tops that have low necklines, tight fitting trousers, jeans, see-through garments and miniskirts.”
These are unacceptable and all members on duty must uphold the dignity and formality expected of them in service to the public – and “despite the complexity of women’s fashions, women should put on a correspondingly high standard of dress.”
Men are not let off the hook. They must wear a collar and tie and keep jackets in their offices in case they are called to meetings. Suits and ties will be required on formal occasions.
Tailored safari suits and sports jackets and blazers are permissible in routine government service.
But absolutely no takkies (tennis shoes outside southern Africa), sneakers or open sandals are allowed in government offices without a doctor’s note saying why proper shoes can’t be worn.