/ 28 February 2009

Mugabe says Zimbabwe land seizures will continue

Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe said on Saturday land seizures from white farmers would continue and vowed to press ahead with plans for locals to take majority stakes in foreign companies operating in Zimbabwe.

Mugabe, Zimbabwe’s sole ruler for nearly three decades, is holding on to power despite economic and political turmoil that have forced him into a unity government with the opposition.

”There is no going back on the land reforms. Farms will not be returned back to former [white] farmers. That work will continue, but those farms have to be used properly.

”Again I want to say, the farmers who owned these farms, which now have been designated and offered to new owners, must respect that law. They must vacate those farms, they must vacate those farms, they must vacate those farms.”

Thousands of Zanu-PF supporters in party regalia turned up for Mugabe’s 85th birthday rally at a sports field at Chinhoyi University about 100km west of Harare.

Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai was not at the venue, despite earlier indications he would attend the rally.

Mugabe’s spokesperson George Charamba said Tsvangirai had opted out of the event after realising it was organised by Mugabe’s Zanu-PF party.

”People should not read this as a snub. He [Tsvangirai] excused himself,” Charamba told Reuters.

Mugabe told the crowd the Southern African Development Community (SADC) tribunal, which last year ruled in favour of a group of white farmers whose farms had been targeted for seizure, had no right to rule on the land seizures.

”Some farmers went to the SADC tribunal in Namibia, but that’s nonsense, absolute nonsense, no one will follow that,” he told supporters. ”We have courts here in this country, that can determine the rights of people. Our land issues are not subject to the SADC tribunal.”

SADC finance ministers on Friday agreed to push for donor help to save Zimbabwe from economic collapse, which critics blame on Mugabe’s policies.

Zimbabwe’s new unity government is heavily reliant on donors to revive the country, which is suffering hyperinflation, food shortages and 90% unemployment.

Mugabe said the unity government will continue to push for a majority stake in companies operating in Zimbabwe.

”We would want to see a greater participation of our people in them, not less than 51%, in certain companies we would have designated.

”In the areas of mining, agriculture and manufacturing, a methodological and systematic identification of areas in which the state and indigenous entrepreneurs can participate, is being carried out, in line with the Indigenous and Empowerment Act.”

The nationalisation law, which Mugabe signed a few days before last March’s general election, seeks to transfer majority control of foreign firms, including mines and banks, to black Zimbabweans.

Mugabe also told his party supporters the unity government was a temporary arrangement and they should prepare for new elections, possibly after two years.

”Let’s not mourn over the inclusive government, let’s accept it as it is. But this government is an interim government to stabilise the economy and end violence and conflict.”

”Our parties remain in place as separate entities, but we don’t want violence. We should continue organising as Zanu-PF, because no one knows the day or hour [for elections], remembering the lesson of March. We want the people to know that we are going towards fresh elections.”

Mugabe’s Zanu-PF lost its parliamentary majority for the first time since independence in the March polls, while the veteran ruler was outpolled by Tsvangirai in the first round presidential vote, before winning a disputed run-off ballot. – Reuters