Fiery Mugabe vows to end white 'imperialism'

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The Independent Online

The Zimbabwean President launched the ruling party's election manifesto yesterday, pumping his fist into the air and crying: "Passi ne [down with] British imperialism.'

Signalling that, from now on, it will be a case of "Mugabe against the world", President Robert Mugabe reiterated his support for squatters occupying nearly 1,000 white-owned farms and underlined that there would be no shift in Zanu-PF's policy until the country's "raw Rhodesians'' gave up half their land. He did, however, while speaking in English, express regret over the deaths of 15 people in political violence since February.

Mr Mugabe did not give a date for the delayed parliamentary elections.

In a fiery speech, mostly in the Shona language, which lasted one hour and 40 minutes at a conference centre in the capital, Harare, there were only brief moments of flagging coherence which betrayed the veteran leader's 76 years.

Referring time and again to Zimbabwe's struggle to end white rule in 1980, Mr Mugabe lambasted Britain for trying to impose "moral lessons'' on his government.

Drawing no distinction between whites in general, settlers, the United Kingdom's Labour government or their "puppets'' in Zimbabwe's opposition, President Mugabe said: "We fought them in a war of liberation to give our people the power to rule themselves, to have democracy - our democracy. In this country there was no democracy, the British never brought the rule of law. Now they think they can teach Mugabe the rule of law.''

He accused "the white man who thinks he is the son of God because he wants us to kneel down'' of sponsoring the opposition Movement For Democratic Change (MDC) and "training its guerrillas'' because "they [Britain] do not want to give us money'' for land.

He said the Foreign Secretary, Robin Cook, had used last week's meeting with a Zimbabwean delegation in London "for propaganda purposes'' to blackmail its former colony by demanding elections and an end to land occupations before considering paying compensation.

Turning to the media, especially the BBC and CNN, he said: "You think we are a foolish lot. You are fighting for the whites. You want us to turn our police and army on our own people, the veterans.

"Goodness me, look at our history. We cannot turn black against black.''

Speaking without notes and repeating several times that the liberation war veterans would not end the farm occupations they have led since February until a designated 841 farms were "free'', he placed Zimbabwe in the centre of movements which had freed the entire southern African region from white tyranny.

Tomorrow, the South African president, Thabo Mbeki, is expected to visit a trade fair in Zimbabwe's second city, Bulawayo, at which Britain will be hoping for a speech tempering his public support for President Mugabe's pre-election land campaign. Southern African leaders, many of whom have strong liberation war ties with Zimbabwe, have so far been broadly supportive of his pre-election move to put the land question on the agenda.

The full-colour 62-page manifesto of the Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front dwarfs the 10-page black-and-white effort of the MDC, and dubs the opposition party "the Movement for Destroying our Country''.

The young opposition party, which appears to have suffered a severe setback as a result of Zanu-PF's recent violent intimidation campaign, is time and again referred to as a "sellout'' - the same word used during the Seventies struggle against white rule to describe those disloyal to the liberation movement.

Confirming President Mugabe's chosen isolationist stance, the manifesto makes clear that Zimbabwe wishes to depart from the "capitalist, imperialist'' economic policies of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. Foreign charities and aid agencies are denounced as wanting to "undermine the legal and constitutional basis of our sovereignty''.

The manifesto calls for Zimbabwe to model itself on Cuba, to reverse structural adjustment policies and reintroduce price controls on basic items.

It outlines a five-year plan under the banner "land is the economy and the economy is land'', which would see increased cash-crop production and the resettlement of 500,000 families on five million hectares of reclaimed land. However, in the absence of international donors, it does not make clear how tractors and fertiliser would be bought.

The document also attacks the Zimbabwean judiciary, which is widely respected internationally for its continued independence. "The time has come for sell-outs and sections of the so-called independent press to understand that the judiciary is part of the government,'' it says.

In a final attack on whites and "sell-outs'', President Mugabe added that "in this little world of Zimbabwe we are our own redeemers''. To an explosion of cheers and chanting, he said: "Britain says it will take 20,000 people. They are free to go. We can even assist them by showing them the exit.''