A Malawian diplomat has turned down the job of ambassador to Zimbabwe because he was opposed to dictatorship, he has told the BBC.
“People of conscience need to stand with the Zimbabwean population, especially those living in poverty and suffering human rights violations,” said Thoko Banda.
In 2006, he reportedly called Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe “an idiot”.
Banda told the BBC he would no longer use these words.
Mugabe has been in power in Zimbabwe since 1980 but denies carrying out human rights abuses.
Neither government has yet commented on Mr Banda’s statement.
‘Nice to foreigners’
Banda was explaining his sour relations with Malawi’s former Presidents Bakili Muluzi and Bingu wa Mutharika when he launched into a scathing attack against Zimbabwe’s president in 2006.
“This guy Robert Mugabe. I hope that he lives a very long time, so that one day he can go before an international tribunal. He is a horrible man,” Germany’s The Foreigner magazine quoted him saying.
“The only difference between Mugabe and some of the other leaders is that Mugabe hurts not only his own people but also foreigners. That is why they hate him so much in the West,” he said.
“Leaders like mine, they are cleverer – they know, as long they are nice to foreigners they can stay.”
He was named as ambassador under Malawi’s new President, Peter Mutharika.
Banda was initially earmarked to be Malawi’s envoy to Belgium and the European Union, but said he was not consulted before being switched to Harare.
“Someone like me is not somebody to send to a place like Zimbabwe, where they have a leader who wants you to endorse whatever he does with impunity,” he told the BBC’s Focus on Africa programme.
Mugabe remains an influential figure in Africa and is supported by many of the continent’s leaders, despite fierce criticism of him by the West.