But aides of the veteran leader, who came to power at independence from Britain in 1980, said the revolts in north Africa – which swept away long-ruling Tunisian President Zine elAbidine Ben Ali and left Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak tenaciously holding on to power – showed the folly of pandering to Western interests.
Tsvangirai, who has unsuccessfully waged a 10-year political battle to dislodge Mugabe from power, said Zimbabweans were as deeply frustrated at the alleged lack of democracy and human rights in the country as their north African counterparts, and could explode at any time.
"To me, when people take their rights and start demanding more rights, there is nothing wrong with that, including in Zimbabwe. That was the whole purpose of our struggle for the last 10 years," he said.
"The aspect of incumbents leaving power to their children, dynasties, as we may call it, that is resented by the people," Tsvangirai said.
But Mugabe’s aides said the uprising in north Africa was a result of the governments’ pandering to the interests of the West, at the expense of the aspirations, especially economic, of their people.
They said both Tunisia and Egypt were close allies of the US, and served its interests – both political and economic – at home and in the greater Middle East.
That, they said, was in contrast with Mugabe’s plans to empower the majority through farm and business seizures from whites and foreigners, a policy which has earned him the wrath of the West.
Both the United States and the European Union have slapped sanctions on Mugabe over his policies, which the veteran leader said were meant to ensure Zimbabweans derived maximum benefit from the country’s resources, particularly minerals.
In an editorial, a pro-Mugabe newspaper said such policies which benefited the masses, unlike those of Mubarak and Ben Ali, endeared the Zimbabwean leader to the public, making Tunisian-style revolts against him impossible.
"Political leaders who allow Western interests to supersede national interests are asking for trouble. Heads of state, after being lavished with glitzy banquets in Washington DC, often believe the lie that the Americans are their best friends.
”America has no permanent friends. American has permanent interests. Saddam Hussein learnt this the hard way," the paper wrote.