Zimbabwe says taking measures to counter threats

HARARE – The embattled Zimbabwean regime said it was taking serious measures to counter threats against it and would not agree to peacekeeping forces entering the country, Information Minister, former primary school head teacher, Dr Sikhanyiso Ndlovu said on Tuesday.

The country’s defence systems are in a complete state of decay, a lot of equipment was lost in DRC and morale in the military is at an alltime low.

Over the years, Zimbabwe has not replenished its defence equipment after huge losses in the DRC war where many experienced battle hardened soldiers were killed in a war of the Great Lakes.

Chinese have supplied the regime with radar equipment and some dodgy MIG jet fighters, but to due to lack of proper maintenance, they have all but fallen appart. 

Competent technical staff and pilots have left the Airforce, either through the right channels or deserted into exile due to poor remuneration.

The only security wings still functioning for Robert Mugabe are the spy agency, CIO and the police. These are the two government security agencies abducting innocent defenceless opposition supporterss and human rights activists.

Even the police itself has experienced bombings in its offices, pointing to internal revolt in the system.

"I will not tell you what … but the Zimbabwe government is taking serious measures to offset any threats and any further sanctions on the people … We won this country through the barrel of the gun and we will defend it the way we won it," Information Minister Sikhanyiso Ndlovu, a teacher told reporters in Harare.

The regime’s information minister slammed the "dirty mouths" of foreign leaders calling for President Robert Mugabe to quit, and accused the West of plotting a military invasion.

"I don’t have kind words for all heads of state who have made utterances against Zimbabwe one by one, and I hope this is the last time they open their dirty mouths on Zimbabwe," information minister Sikhanyiso Ndlovu told reporters.

"After squeezing and strangling the country with sanctions and contaminating it with cholera and anthrax, the West is seeking to use the window of opportunity provided by the disaster to justify military intervention," he said.

South African government have said they will oppose any move to send troops to Zimbabwe as called for by some African leaders, a senior government official in the Foreign Affairs Ministry said on Tuesday.

Ayanda Ntsaluba, Director General of South Africa’s Department of Foreign Affairs, told reporters that South Africa needed to increase humanitarian aid to Zimbabwe where a cholera epidemic has killed nearly 600 people.

Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga has proposed that Foreign troops should prepare to intervene in Zimbabwe to end a worsening humanitarian crisis and Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe should be investigated for crimes against humanity, the Kenyan prime minister said Sunday.

Odinga, in the latest sign of growing international frustration over Zimbabwe’s slide into chaos, urged the African Union to call an emergency meeting to authorize sending troops into Zimbabwe.

"If no troops are available, then the AU must allow the U.N. to send its forces into Zimbabwe with immediate effect, to take over control of the country and ensure urgent humanitarian assistance to the people dying of cholera," he said.

More than 500 Zimbabweans have officially died of the disease since an outbreak in August but health officials fear the toll may be much higher. They warn that deaths could spiral into the thousands due to the collapse of Zimbabwe’s health system, the scarcity of food and the oncoming rainy season, which may help spread infections.

Odinga said Mugabe had reduced a once-prosperous country to a "basket case" and warned, "Mugabe’s case deserves no less than investigations by the International Criminal Court at The Hague."

Odinga slammed other African leaders for being slow to criticize Zimbabwe, saying they had shamed the continent by treating Mugabe with "kid gloves" because Mugabe had supported their liberation struggles.

"We refuse to accept the idea that African countries should be judged by lesser standards than other countries in the world," Odinga said. "Participation in the liberation struggle is no license for anyone to own a country."

He declined to say whether Kenya was ready to send troops. The AU and U.N. are already over-stretched in Africa, unable to fulfill commitments in Sudan’s Darfur region and Somalia.

Global criticism of Mugabe is growing louder. On Sunday former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan and human rights campaigner Graca Machel released a report in Paris urging Zimbabwe’s leaders to end their power-sharing impasse and concentrate on saving lives. The three members of group called The Elders were refused visas to enter Zimbabwe but interviewed aid workers, politicians and others for the report.

Machel is the wife of Elders founder Nelson Mandela, the former South African President. She said either Zimbabwe’s leaders do not understand how deeply their people are suffering "or they don’t care."

In America, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice told ABC News that Zimbabwe’s cholera outbreak endangered the whole of southern Africa and the international community was failing to protect the people of Zimbabwe.

"I am still really appalled at the inability of the international community to deal with tyrants," she said. "Robert Mugabe should have gone a long time ago."

Botswana’s Foreign Minister Phandu Skelemani, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu have all called on Mugabe to step down.

Although it was once one of Africa’s most prosperous nations, Zimbabwe’s economy has almost completely collapsed under Mugabe. Elections held last March were widely denounced for murderous attacks on the opposition, and Mugabe reluctantly joined a power-sharing government designed by international mediators. But negotiations on the distribution of cabinet positions have deadlocked.

At least a quarter of Zimbabwe’s population has fled the country and many of those who remain are surviving on leaves and roots.