Human rights groups in Zimbabwe have condemned world football’s governing body for allowing Robert Mugabe to hold the World Cup trophy as it passed through Zimbabwe.

The trophy is on a tour of all 53 African countries ahead of next year’s football showpiece in neighbouring South Africa.

But activists in Zimbabwe criticised Fifa for handing a propaganda coup to a leader blamed for atrocities and oppression.

At a ceremony in Harare on Friday, Mugabe joked gleefully as he lifted the cup. Inspecting the 6,5kg solid gold trophy, the president could not resist a dig at his old enemy Britain, according to the New Zimbabwe website.

“Britain does not have any gold, neither does Germany,” he was quoted as saying.

“I am tempted to think that it came from Africa, and from Zimbabwe, and was taken away by adventurers who shaped it into this cup.”

Mugabe’s comments raised laughter at a ceremony attended by Government officials, football fans and journalists at Harare international airport.

He added: “When I hold the cup, I know all of you will have the urge that I should not let it go because this could be our gold.”

Raymond Majongwe, secretary general of the Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe, said Fifa should not have given Mugabe legitimacy. He said: “It’s a symbol of sporting excellence and the trophy every world leader craves to hold in their lifetime. They could have sent a political message by keeping it away from Zimbabwe. But with this, Mugabe was able to say the World Cup will come and go and he will still be there.”

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