Mugabe says Zim will not change course

Zimbabwe’s embattled President Robert Mugabe vowed on Monday he would not change course because of Western opposition to his policies and instructed landlords and businesses to seek state approval for all price increases.

Mugabe (83), in power since the Southern African country’s independence from Britain in 1980, faces an economic crisis marked by the world’s highest inflation rate of more than 4 500%.

Addressing a rally to celebrate veterans of Zimbabwe’s national liberation struggle, a defiant Mugabe said his Zanu-PF government was determined to implement policies it believed would economically empower the country’s poor black majority.

Mugabe accused Zimbabwe’s former colonial power Britain of spearheading a Western campaign against his government’s seizures of white-owned farms for black Zimbabweans, its current price blitz and plans to nationalise foreign-owned companies, including banks and mines.

”If indeed we are a sovereign independent nation, we see no reason whatever why our empowerment programmes should encounter undeserved opposition as comes from Britain regularly,” he said.

”There will never be recognition of that opposition and hostility as an attitude that can ever deter us from expressing our sovereign right to govern ourselves as we deem fit,” Mugabe said, adding that London should stop treating Zimbabwe as if it was still a British colony.

Mugabe — who in June ordered businesses to slash prices by half and landlords to freeze rent increases in a bid to tame galloping inflation — said on Monday he took the move to stop a ”brazen conspiracy” against his government and all new prices increases must be sanctioned by the state.

No rent increases

To a round of cheers from a crowd of thousands of people at the rally, Mugabe warned landlords who have been accused of raising rents despite the price freeze: ”Landlords take care: the moratorium on rent increases remains in force.”

”Under the new law, businesses must seek approval from the Ministry of Industry and International Trade before raising prices,” he said.

Since June 25, police have arrested and fined more than 7 500 businesses — including transport operators — accused of defying the new price controls, which have emptied shop shelves and sparked a new wave of panic buying.

Mugabe, who is seeking re-election in a general poll due in March next year, rejects criticism he has run the economy into the ground, accusing the opposition and Western powers of trying to oust him.

Zimbabweans are struggling to cope with the world’s highest inflation rate and severe food, fuel and foreign currency shortages.

On Monday, Mugabe said his government was investing heavily in agriculture to turn around an economy that critics say has been badly damaged by his land seizures, and was also looking at problems in the transport and health sectors.

The former guerrilla leader — who denies that Zimbabwe is doomed under his rule — appealed for national unity to defend what he called Zimbabwe’s independence gains.

”Let Zimbabwe be an impenetrable fortress inhabited by people who know fully well the trials and tribulations they endured to attain nationhood, people who are therefore determined to conquer the current temporary challenges and look to the future with hope,” he said. — Reuters

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