Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, speaking in public for the first time since last month’s disputed election, Friday sharply castigated former colonial master Britain for ‘trying’ to impose neo-colonial rule in the country via the opposition.
In a lengthy independence anniversary speech, the veteran leader charged Britain, angered by his government’s controversial seizure of white-owned farms for black resettlement, was sponsoring opposition parties in Zimbabwe to topple him.
Mugabe, 84, vowed ‘never, never ever’ to allow what he called foreign-sponsored parties to come to power in the southern African country.
He is facing growing opposition and international accusations of manipulating the 29 March presidential vote, whose results have not been declared.
The opposition has claimed it won the election, and said the government was withholding the result in a bid to rig it in favour of Mugabe.
Election officials, however, said the delay in the announcement of the outcome of the poll was caused by the need to thoroughly count and verify ballots cast after allegations of irregularities were raised.
In the speech, Mugabe went historical, tracing the various stages of the black struggle against British colonial rule in Zimbabwe, ending in independence in 1980 after a bitter guerrila war which he led.
Britain, accusing Zimbabwe’s government of human rights abuses and trampling democracy, is leading a global onslaught by Western powers against Mugabe’s rule.
Earlier in the week, London, backed by the US, lobbied for the election stalemate in Zimbabwe to be discussed by the Security Council of the United Nations.
But Mugabe said it was him, through a guerilla war in the 1970s, and not Britain, who had brought democracy and human rights to Zimbabwe which London was now preaching about.
“We and not the British established democracy on the basis of one-man, one-vote and brought human rights in this country,” he said.
“There was no democracy (before independence) which the British are talking about. We brought it through the gun,” said Mugabe in a fiery speech at Gwanzura stadium in the capital Harare.
He accused Britain of funding opposition parties in Zimbabwe to topple him, but vowed: “This will never happen in this country.”
He said it was a shame that, given the country’s bitter struggle against colonial rule, some politicians were willing to be ‘bought’ and ‘used’ by Britain in her bid to reverse farm seizures.
“What a shame that you are accepting to be bought so cheaply when we have a painful colonial history which should teach us otherwise,” said Mugabe.
“Things will never, never change that they (white farmers) can come back and re-claim our land. Never ever shall we reverse that. Forward ever, backward never,” he said.
Mugabe paid tribute to regional countries for supporting his government against British-led western criticism, singling out South African President Thabo Mbeki.
The South African leader is a mediator between the government and opposition in Zimbabwe, and this week strongly resisted British efforts at the UN to have Harare on the agenda of the Security Council meeting.
Mugabe did not mention the election stalemate, which this week prompted the opposition to call for an indefinite general strike to press for the release of the poll results.
Political tension is high in the country over the results, with the opposition calling Mugabe’s continued stay in power ‘illegitimate.’
On the other hand, the government is accusing the main opposition party of courting western military intervention, which it described as treason.