A recently-unveiled statue of Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe has been mocked online, as the head of state continues to face public discontent over the nation's crippling economy. After almost four decades of quelled frustrations under Mugabe's iron-fisted rule, a flurry of citizen or civil activism movements have been rising and spreading in the South African nation, and are calling for much yearned social, political and economic change.
On Friday, (9 September) Mugabe was presented with two statues of himself – one produced by Dominic Benhura, a local sculptor, and another by a group of artists from a mining village in Masvingo Province.
It took Benhura over six months to produce the 3.8metre (12.4672ft) statue, which depicts the the president with one arm raised above his head and fist clenched, wearing his emblematic thick-framed glasses.
His cartoon-like statue, however, was ridiculed by social media users following its unveiling with users joking the 92-year-old leader had become "victim of Sculptor Terrorism".
Using the hashtag #MugabeStatue, a number of users compared the statue's facial details to characters from The Simpsons cartoon.
Referring to one of the activist campaigns, known as Tajamuka/Sesjikile, which has been organising anti-Mugabe demonstrations along other movements since May this year, a user said: "erudite depiction of the dear leader!!The artist is definitely a Tajamuka member who has represented us well!!"
In reference to Zimbabwe's police heavy-handed tactics against Mugabe's opponents, another user joked the sculptor may be arrested for producing the artwork. "The poor chap is probably at Chikurubi prison (Zimbabwe's best-known jail) by now," he wrote in a Tweet.
"The people who made the #MugabeStatue and every government official who saw it and didn't get it destroyed must be charged with treason."
Comparing Benhura's statue with those of other former leaders, including the nation's vice president from 2009 to 2013 John Nkomo, and South African's late president Nelson Mandela, a user joked it was "criminal" to create such a piece of art.
Exhibited worldwide, Benhura was commissioned by the presidency to produce the statue, which Mugabe said had been donated as "charity".
"To see oneself reproduced this way, it's something that should be more appreciated than just by saying 'thank you'," Mugabe said during the unveiling ceremony, according to the Herald newspaper. "I will say in an African way and in our own way, personally, thank you in a deeper way because it has gone deep in my heart."
Jonathan Moyo, minister of higher education, meanwhile, came in defence of the statue saying the sculptor's "artistic freedom" should be respected.
Benhura, meanwhile, was quoted as saying: "I wanted to make it as big as possible (...) This is our number one so I wanted to give it a strong impression."