Mugabe accuses ministers as sanctions loom

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The Independent Online

President Robert Mugabe has accused some of his ministers of "wining and dining" with British officials instead of defending controversial Zimbabwean land reforms to combat the imposition of sanctions.

He told supporters at the 79th birthday celebrations of his deputy, Simon Muzenda, at the weekend, that he no longer had confidence in some ministers "who were likely to give up the fight" if sanctions were imposed on Zimbabwe by Britain and its allies in protest at his radical land reforms.

The country is likely to face tough censure from European Union foreign ministers, who are this week discussing the imposition of sanctions against Zimbabwe. Earlier this year, Mr Mugabe's minister of industry and international trade, Nkosana Moyo, resigned and left Zimbabwe. Now officials say Mr Mugabe is getting increasingly uncomfortable with other ministers who have not shared his hardline stance on land reforms. They say the president accuses them of "wining and dining" with British officials at the expense of articulating his land policies.

At the birthday celebrations, Mr Mugabe said he would not relent on the issue, despite pressure from Britain. "If I look at the calibre of ministers that I have, I do not trust them. They might say something good now, but if sanctions are imposed because of the land issue, I know they will give up."

Zimbabwe yesterday accused the Commonwealth secretary general, Don McKinnon, of conspiring with Britain in efforts to sabotage the land reforms and remove President Mugabe from power.

The Zimbabwe government, through its main media mouthpiece, The Herald newspaper, accused him of having already unilaterally drafted a timetable of when Commonwealth observers should be deployed in Zimbabwe for next year's crunch presidential election. Mr McKinnon, who was part of a Commonwealth team who visited Zimbabwe last week, told reporters the Commonwealth would send election monitors to Zimbabwe only if it was invited by President Mugabe's government.

The Zimbabwe government said it had neither invited the Commonwealth to monitor the election nor set the dates for the election. The country has already rejected a call for EU observers. Mr McKinnon has been demonised in Zimbabwe's state media for being "part of a white Commonwealth group fighting for the ouster of President Mugabe" instead of helping in efforts to resolve Zimbabwe's land crisis. Canada, Australia and Britain are masterminding the efforts of this "white Commonwealth group", says Zimbabwe's government.

The Commonwealth secretary general also denied mobilising funds for the opposition Movement for Democratic Change which has a chance to remove Mr Mugabe from power if he allows free and fair elections. "I'm not mobilising funds for any political party," Mr McKinnon said. "Never ever. That is not my mandate."

The Commonwealth committee of ministers on Zimbabwe's land crisis, including Foreign Office minister Baroness Amos, failed to censure President Mugabe's government after intense squabbling. Ministers took all Saturday to decide their watered-down communique urging the Zimbabwe government to uphold the rule of law in implementing land reforms.

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