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The story behind Zimbabwe's scarf

Jul 26, 2018

The story behind Zimbabwe’s scarf


An accidental fashion accessory is helping Zimbabwe’s new president rebrand the country – and distance himself from his predecessor Robert Mugabe and his 37-year rule.

Since the Davos summit in January, Emmerson Mnangagwa is hardly ever seen without a scarf in the colours of Zimbabwe’s flag around his neck – no matter the temperature.

It was perfect for the freezing Swiss mountain village in mid-winter – and the Zimbabwean president proudly wore it during a BBC interview, later tweeting a clip of it saying, “Zimbabwe is open for business.”

But the scarf now has a life of its own, beyond the World Economic Forum – and even has its own hashtag 

The president, popularly known by his initials ED, got his hands on the scarf by chance when a mother-and-daughter fashion start-up contacted the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on the Saturday before the Zimbabwe delegation left for Davos.

‘Such a shock’

There had been much hype ahead of the summit with Zimbabwe’s new leader anxious to attract urgent investment to revive an economy that has been on its knees for the last decade.

“We called and were like, ‘We’ve got these products, we’re not sure how you can use them.’

know the president is wearing the scarf…

It was really such a shock on our end,” Celia Rukato told the BBC’s Newsday programme.

For the scarf, things have also got a little more political because of the president's passion for it. At nearly every campaign rally for the ruling Zanu-PF party - whether or not it is cold - he is seen with it around his neck.

It has even got the head of the electoral commission into trouble, when a photo of her posing in the scarf with its creator, Celia Rukato, next to her began circulating on social media.