Mugabe blasts West for seeking 'regime change'

Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe accused the West on Tuesday of seeking to provoke “illegal regime change” by crippling his country economically.

Speaking at a summit on the global food crisis, the veteran leader—facing run-off presidential polls this month—accused the West of using non-governmental bodies and opposition political parties to try and bring him down.

A British minister described his participation at the Rome summit as “obscene” given the economic collapse of Zimbabwe, once known as Southern Africa’s breadbasket, under Mugabe’s government.

Mugabe rebuffed the British criticism, saying: “The United Kingdom has mobilised their friends and allies in Europe, North America, Australia and New Zealand to impose illegal economic sanctions against Zimbabwe.

“All this has been done to cripple Zimbabwe’s economy and thereby effect illegal regime change in our country,” he told a summit on the global food price crisis.

Mugabe, who has been in power for 28 years, has overseen the collapse of Zimbabwe’s once thriving agriculture sector since ordering the seizure of white-owned farms.

Zimbabwe, whose maize exports helped feed neighbours such as Zambia and Malawi, is now short of even the most basic foodstuffs with most people surviving on two meals a day.

Mugabe blamed Zimbabwe’s economic isolation for its dire state, noting that the West had also cut off all development assistance, stopped lines of credit and other sources of international funding for his country, as well as pushing companies “not to do business with Zimbabwe”.

In addition, “funds are being channelled through non-governmental organisations [NGOs] to ... opposition political parties which are a creation of the West.

“Further, these western-funded NGOs also use food as a political weapon with which to campaign against [the] government especially in the rural areas,” he told delegates.

Zimbabwe will hold the second round of presidential elections on June 27 after Mugabe lost the first-round poll to opposition rival Morgan Tsvangirai on March 29.

Violence broke out in mostly rural parts of the country after Mugabe’s Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (Zanu-PF) lost its majority for the first time in 28 years in general elections, also held on March 29.

Mugabe said the British-led campaign against Zimbabwe was in retaliation for his land reforms, which had seen farms formerly held by about 4 000 mostly British landowners transferred to over 300 000 previously landless families.

“While this land reform programme has been wholly welcomed by the vast majority of our people, it has, however, regrettably elicited wrath from our former colonial masters,” he said.

Earlier Britain’s International Development Minister Douglas Alexander vowed to snub Mugabe at the Rome summit.

“I think Robert Mugabe’s attendance at a world food summit is quite frankly obscene,” he said.

“This is a man who has impoverished his own nation, a country that was previously regarded as the bread basket of Africa and now has four million of his own population reliant on food aid.”

German Development Minister Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul also lamented his presence, saying: “I find it very cynical that someone who has driven people into hunger and the country into ruin dares to turn up at such a conference.” - AFP

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