Mugabe attacks the West as he arrives in Malawi

LILONGWE – As southern African leaders converged on Malawi Friday for the annual Southern African Development Community (SADC) summit, veteran Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe has challenged that he remains unfazed with the British and American governments maintaining sanctions against his country.

“I have nothing to do with the British, nothing to do with Americans and so we say well those are their decisions, we take our own decisions as African people and those are the decisions we go by,” he told journalists on arrival in the Malawi capital, Lilongwe, for the two-day SADC summit.

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Mugabe acknowledged that the West abhors him as an individual, not necessarily the Zimbabwean people. he, however, added: “But Robert Mugabe happens to be a Zimbabwean, an African.”

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Mugabe, 89, has just won a controversial election which has widely been endorsed as ‘credible’ by his SADC colleagues, save for Botswana who called it a “fraud”.

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Botswana leader, Lt. Gen. Seretse Khama Ian Khama arrives for the Lilongwe summit Saturday.

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But Mugabe, in a jovial mood after being welcomed by his Malawian counterpart Joyce Banda, accused the West of trying to think for Africans.

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“You know what the West is like. They want to think for us, take decisions for us and even direct us as to which way we want to go,” he said. “What we decide as a correct course and correct decision they by and large will not agree to with that, unless that charted path or that direction is in their interest. It is always their own interest.”

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South African president Jacob Zuma also backed the Zimbabwe polls as ‘credible’.

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He told journalists on arrival for the summit in Lilongwe: “We were working for the elections to be peaceful, to be free and I think that this has happened.”

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The Zimbabwe election is not officially on the agenda but the Southern Africa People’s Coalition Solidarity Network (SAPSA), a coalition of NGOs, is set to petition the summit on Saturday to discuss what it called “loopholes” in the elections.

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Mozambican president Armando Guebuza, the out-going SADC chairman, also hinted the summit will review the Zimbabwe election on arrival for the summit on Thursday.

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The SADC summit ends Sunday after which southern Africa’s first female president Joyce Banda will assume the assume the chair of the 14-member economic bloc.

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Mugabe has vowed to press on with his policy of forcing all companies to cede economic control to black Zimbabweans. He says black Zimbabweans need help as they faced discrimination during white minority rule.

Mugabe has also denied opposition claims that the voting was rigged in his favour.

President Mugabe’s policy of seizing most of Zimbabwe’s white-owned farms is widely seen as having caused the country’s economic collapse. Mugabe says giving black Zimbabweans control of the business sector is the next step, and the election result gave him a resounding mandate to do so.

Mugabe says, “The indigenisation and empowerment drive will continue in order to ensure that indigenous Zimbabweans enjoy a larger share of the country’s resources.”

Already, foreign-owned companies have to ensure that they are at least 51 percent locally owned. Analysts say this has scared off potential investment from abroad. There are reports that local operations of foreign-owned mining companies have already been targeted, while banks could be next.

“Now that the people of Zimbabwe have granted us a resounding mandate in the governance of the country, we will do everything in our power to ensure that our objective of total indigenisation, empowerment, development and employment is realized.”

Zimbabwe’s economic meltdown halted in 2009 after a power-sharing government was established and the local currency abandoned. Some of Mugabe’s allies have suggested that the Zimbabwean dollar could now be re-introduced.

His critics say much of the land seized from white farmers was either given to his cronies or to people who lacked the expertise or resources to use it productively.