Robert Mugabe vows not to reverse farm seizures

BINDURA, Zimbabwe – Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe said on Saturday he would not allow a unity government to reverse his controversial policy of seizing white-owned farmland and giving it to blacks.

Speaking at his ZANU-PF party’s annual conference, Mugabe said that while he hoped the opposition would agree to form a coalition government, he would not compromise on policies such as land seizures, which critics say wrecked Zimbabwe’s economy.

"We don’t want a unity which is retrogressive," Mugabe told about 6,000 ruling party supporters at this town about 80 km (50 miles) north of the capital Harare.

"The biggest issue is of land … the land has already been given to the people, it will not be returned to whites."

Mugabe and opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai agreed three months ago to form a coalition government after disputed elections, but the pact has stalled as they fight over who should control key ministries.

Meanwhile, Zimbabwe has sunk deeper into crisis: hyperinflation means prices double every day and a cholera epidemic has killed more than 1,100 people.

Mugabe has threatened to form a government with or without the MDC, which complains the president is trying to relegate it to a junior role.

Investors hope a unity government would wrest enough control from Mugabe to reverse the policies they blame for the meltdown, and avert total collapse in Zimbabwe. Mugabe blames Western sanctions for the crisis.  

UNTILLED FARMLAND

Under the September 15 deal, land that was seized from white farmers and now lies dormant would not be returned, but would be redistributed to black farmers with the resources and skills to cultivate it.

In a sign of Zimbabwe’s collapse — and its potential — the conference took place in a town that once relied on mining for its economic lifeblood. Those mines have recently been shut.

ZANU-PF officials earlier said the party was likely to vote on a resolution on Saturday urging Mugabe urgently to form a government unilaterally — a move that would probably finish off the power-sharing pact.

Resolutions were being discussed behind closed doors and it was not immediately clear whether the motion had been passed.

In elections last March, ZANU-PF lost its parliamentary majority for the first time since independence in 1980. Tsvangirai boycotted a run-off presidential vote in June, citing violence against his supporters.

Western countries and some African leaders have renewed calls in recent weeks for Mugabe, 84, to step down.

But, a day after vowing never to "surrender," Mugabe railed against his foes, saying the West wanted to topple him.

"Mugabe must go before Bush is going?" he said, referring to U.S. President George W. Bush, who leaves office in January. "Is it a ritual now that Bush with his political death must be accompanied by some African from Zimbabwe, and that African must be the leader himself, and that leader is Mugabe?" Reuters