/ 3 February 2009

Mugabe: Western sanctions to blame for Zim crisis

Zanu-PF leader Robert Mugabe on Tuesday blamed Western sanctions for Zimbabwe’s economic collapse, which has left millions jobless and hungry.

Speaking on the final day of the 12th African Union summit in Addis Ababa, Mugabe charged that European and United States sanctions against his regime had crippled his nation’s economy and fuelled popular unrest.

”We believe that these illegal sanctions are not only unjustified and cruel, but they have also contributed deeply to the suffering and the poverty-induced polarisation of the people of Zimbabwe,” he said.

Mugabe accused donors of punishing Zimbabwe for his land reform programme, in which white-owned farms were forcibly seized and given to black farmers, who often had little experience or access to equipment.

”Our condemnation, our isolation is because my government took the necessary measures to create conditions for equal opportunities, for decolonisation, for creating conditions in which our people could regain their lost resources.”

Zimbabwe has been bogged down in a bitter political feud since the March 2008 elections, further scuppering an already ailing economy.

The Southern Africa country’s unemployment rate currently peaked at 94% while its inflation — symbolised by the release last month of a 100-trillion-dollar note — is the world’s highest.

The African Union on Saturday called for the lifting of the sanctions, which comprise mainly a travel ban and asset freeze on Mugabe and his inner circle, as a means of alleviating the humanitarian crisis in Zimbabwe.

Mugabe made little mention of a deal to form a national unity government with the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), and did not reply to calls from United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon for him to free political prisoners and guarantee human rights.

The 84-year-old, who has ruled Zimbabwe since independence from Britain in 1980, has come under increasing international pressure since his electoral dispute with opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai.

But Mugabe remains a popular figure and is considered an independence hero by many African leaders.

The Zimbabwean president also blamed the West for causing the global financial crisis by allowing the speculative activities of a greedy few and demanded Africa be given a role in shaping a healthier economic system.

”We are therefore ready and more than willing in playing our part and contributing toward the rebuilding of the global economy,” he said.

Cholera cases close to 65 000
Meanwhile, the number of people reported to be infected by cholera in Zimbabwe has risen to almost 65 000, latest data from the World Health Organisation showed on Tuesday.

About 64 701 people have caught the disease during the outbreak, which started in August, and 3 295 among them have died, the WHO said.

The latest data indicated that 1 792 new cases and 66 deaths have been added since Monday, when WHO statistics showed 62 909 cases and 3 229 deaths.

On Monday, the UN’s Ban Ki-moon said Mugabe had agreed to allow a top-level UN team to visit Zimbabwe to find ways of curbing a cholera epidemic and a hunger crisis. — Sapa-AFP