Mugabe rejects Western criticism over vote

In first public comments since he was declared winner, Zimbabwean leader says UK and its allies backed his opponent.

    Mugabe rejects Western criticism over vote
    Mugabe told a meeting of ZANU-PF there would be no let-up in economic nationalism policies [Reuters]

    Robert Mugabe, the Zimbabwean president, has rejected Western criticism of his disputed re-election and vowed to press ahead with nationalist economic policies transferring majority stakes in foreign-owned firms to blacks.

    In his first public comments since he was declared winner of a July 31 election that his main rival Morgan Tsvangirai has calleld fraudulent, Mugabe, Africa's oldest leader at 89, said on Wednesday his ZANU-PF party's victory had "dealt the enemy a blow".

    He identified this enemy as "the British and their allies" whom he said had backed Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).

    Tsvangirai, who has been prime minister in a unity government cobbled together after he boycotted a runoff over intimidation of his supporters, has said his MDC will challenge the election outcome in court, alleging massive vote-rigging and intimidation by ZANU-PF.

    Mugabe told ZANU-PF's politburo in the capital Harare that Western governments had pledged to consider lifting sanctions if the elections were free and fair.

    "But now they, even as the whole of Africa is sending us messages of congratulations to say 'well done', they say the elections were not free. And where are they talking? London and Washington and Ottawa," added the eveteran leader, who has been in power since independence from Britain in 1980.

    Election observers from the African Union (AU) and the Southern African Development Community (SADC) broadly approved the July 31 presidential and parliamentary elections, but the conduct of the vote has been criticised by Western nations.

    Nationalism policies 

    The US, which maintains sanctions against Mugabe, has said it does not believe Mugabe's re-election was credible. The European Union, which has been looking at easing sanctions, has also expressed concerns over alleged serious flaws in the vote.

    Mugabe, flanked by his deputy Joice Mujuru and party national chairman Simon Khaya Moyo at the politburo meeting, indicated his critics should not expect any let-up in economic nationalism policies that have also earned Western disapproval.

    "All the time we must take into account our policy of indigenisation and empowerment," he said, referring to policies aimed at increasing black ownership of the economy that have already targeted foreign-owned mining companies and banks.

    "Our task is to look ahead. What we say we shall do, we will do," added Mugabe, looking dapper in a grey suit and a light blue shirt and matching dotted tie.

    The Zimbabwe stock exchange's main Industrial Index shed one percent on Wednesday, following a 1.7 percent fall on Tuesday and an 11 percent drop on Monday, the first trading day after Mugabe's re-election was formerly announced by the country's election commission at the weekend.

    Last week's election, criticised as "seriously compromised" by independent domestic observers in Zimbabwe, ended a fractious unity government between Mugabe's party and Tsvangirai's MDC.

    Many had credited this unity government with achieving a measure of economic revival after a decade of recesssion.

    But Mugabe presented a different view, calling "the immediate past ... retrogressive because of the inclusive government". "We must now raise the standard of living of our people", he said.

    Tsvangirai, who has vowed his MDC will not participate in any government formed by Mugabe following this election, is expected to present a legal challenge to the results by Friday.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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