No cholera in Zimbabwe, says Mugabe

President Robert Mugabe declared today that there was "no cholera" in Zimbabwe and the country's health crisis was over, even as the United Nations raised the death toll from the epidemic to 783.

Cholera has spread rapidly in the southern African nation because of the country's crumbling health care system and the lack of clean water. The UN said 16,403 cases have been reported.

Last week, Zimbabwe declared a health emergency because of cholera and the collapse of its health services. South African authorities have declared the cholera-hit border region with Zimbabwe a disaster area as the disease spreads to other countries.

At a state funeral today for a ruling party official, Mugabe insisted the outbreak of the waterborne disease had been "arrested" with the help of the World Health Organization and other aid agencies.

Mugabe lashed out at critics who have been calling for his ouster — and even military intervention — as concerns about Zimbabwe's deepening humanitarian crisis mounted.

"So now that there is no cholera, there is no cause for war anymore. We need doctors, not soldiers," he said during an hour-long address broadcast live on state television.

Mugabe has ruled his country since its 1980 independence from Britain and has refused to leave office following disputed elections in March. A power-sharing deal worked out in September with the opposition has been deadlocked over how to divide up Cabinet posts.

President George W. Bush, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and French President Nicolas Sarkozy all have called recently for the 84-year-old leader to step down.

In Washington, the US ambassador to Harare, James McGee, told reporters at the State Department that the cholera problem is getting worse and that Mugabe's assertion that the health crisis was over showed "how out of touch he is with the reality" in Zimbabwe.

"The situation is truly grim," McGee said, "One man and his cronies — Robert Mugabe — are holding this country hostage."

Britain's Africa minister Mark Malloch-Brown also rejected Mugabe's claim that there was no longer a crisis in Zimbabwe.

"I don't know what world he is living in," Malloch-Brown said during a one-day trip to South Africa, where he visited a Johannesburg church housing 1,600 Zimbabweans who have fled the country.

Malloch-Brown called on South Africa to put more pressure on Mugabe to end the political and humanitarian crisis. South Africa has withheld 300 million rand ($30 million) in aid for Zimbabwe but otherwise has been reluctant to use its huge economic and political muscle against its neighbor.

"South Africa could do a lot more and it needs to do it now," said Malloch-Brown, who also met South African Health Minister Barbara Hogan, who is trying to contain the spread of cholera from across the border. He was also due to meet President Kgalema Motlanthe.

About 664 people have been treated for the waterborne disease and at least eight people have died in South Africa. Hundreds of Zimbabweans cross the border at Beitbridge every day to search for jobs in South Africa, buy supplies and, increasingly, seek medical treatment.

Phandu Skelemani, foreign minister of neighboring Botswana, which has been critical of Mugabe, said his country's border with Zimbabwe should remain open but he supported other measures to isolate Mugabe and his ZANU-PF party.

"If you switch off petrol (gasoline), I think that ZANU-PF will have to go. If that step is agreed and you then simultaneously airlift critical supplies like food and essential supplies to prevent Zimbabweans from starving to death, I think it will have desired effect," Skelemani told The Associated Press today.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before
'Queer saint' Peter Watson left his mark on British culture by bankrolling artworld giants

'Queer saint' who bankrolled artworld giants

British culture owes a huge debt to Peter Watson, says Michael Prodger
Pushkin Prizes: Unusual exchange programme aims to bring countries together through culture

Pushkin Prizes brings countries together

Ten Scottish schoolchildren and their Russian peers attended a creative writing workshop in the Highlands this week
14 best kids' hoodies

14 best kids' hoodies

Don't get caught out by that wind on the beach. Zip them up in a lightweight top to see them through summer to autumn
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The acceptable face of the Emirates

The acceptable face of the Emirates

Has Abu Dhabi found a way to blend petrodollars with principles, asks Robert Fisk