Edinburgh and Scotland rugby star Dave Denton has opened his heart about the Zimbabwe he was born and grew up in, hinting at the need now to add to international pressure for change in a country where Robert Mugabe has just been mandated to govern for another four years at the age of 89.
Previously, Denton, 23, has seemed reluctant to be drawn on matters relating to the polical situation in the homeland he clearly loves.
But a recent visit to his parents in between Scotland’s tour of South Africa and returning to training with Edinburgh has reinforced his enormous affection for the country to the point where his desire to see greater economic stability meant speaking out in an extremely balanced fashion.
“It’s odd. Going back it wasn’t in the news much. Nothing seemed to be happening and it was the same old Zimbabwe,” said Denton.
“If anything, things were looking up. “(But) Mugabe is not doing anything really good.
“People are trying to increase the negative media about him which I am not helping by saying this.
“What he is doing is not right, though. There’s no doubt about that.
“People living in Zimbabwe don’t need to feel unsafe, according to my parents.
“It is a safe country to live in, a happy place where people love living. That’s why my parents haven’t moved.
“But, if the country wants to succeed and the economy is going to take off, it can’t continue as it is at the moment.”
Denton was schooled in South Africa so he had a particular incentive to be chosen for Scotland’s summer tour to that country.
On his own acknowledgement that left him acutely aware of the volatility and what might happen had the seriously ill former President Nelson Mandela passed away during the tour.
In the event, Mandela remains hospitalised but Denton said: “There were loads of rumours flying around that Mandela had died and they were keeping it quiet.
“We were aware that if he had died something would have happened.
“Whether it was a mass gathering of people or the country closing down, we tried not to bother ourselves with it too much.
“Other than that, it was an incredible tour during which I saw parts of the country I had never seen previously.”
This included the township of Soweto with an estimated population of 1.3 million.
“We saw amazing things, including the sheer number of people living in poverty but really content with their lives.
“We did a rugby session in Soweto and they were all so grateful. We didn’t give an awful lot back and they will probably have forgotten about it by now but we tried our best.
“One of my close friends, Matthew Rusiki, plays for Kaizer Chiefs football team that operates out of Soweto.
“Matthew has told me people such as footballers who can afford to live in posher areas don’t want to because Soweto is home and where their friends are.”
Returning to Murrayfield, Denton learned that a little bit of South Africa would be following him in the shape of Alan Solomons, the new Edinburgh coach who hails from Uitenhage in the Eastern Cape where Denton went to school.
“I didn’t know Alan personally but I had heard a lot about his world-class reputation and for someone who hasn’t even been in Edinburgh a week he has been brilliant.
“He is not going to over complicate anything. Our season will be based around defence and aggression. Alan is very soft spoken but no one utters a word when he is speaking. You get people who command respect without looking for it and he is one of them.
“You can sense the experience he has got. We are lucky to have him and all looking forward to working with him.”
Denton also revealed that younger brother Jack could soon be heading to the Capital and linking up with an Accies club he feels have received an overdue break.
“Jack is an 18-year-old back row/second row who is finishing school and deciding what to do next.
“He captained his school and I’m pushing for him to have the same unbelievably good experience I had at Accies.”
So enthused by the Accies scene is Denton that he has just moved in across the road, meaning he will be in the front line of any appeals by concerned local residents against the planning consent permitting a new stadium at Raeburn Place with commercial premises attached. But he insists: “I’m so happy for Accies. It would have been such a pity if they’d had to move with Raeburn Place having so much history.
“I think this will do wonders for Stockbridge. I Don’t know what everyone was worrying about.
“I see their point but hopefully it is going to be awesome,” said Denton who was speaking at the launch of Edinburgh Rugby’s new kit.