Zimbabwe got its independence from British colonial rule in 1980 after a protracted war.
Addressing thousands of people at Gwanzura Stadium, the 85 year old leader who has been at the helm of the country’s leadership since 1980, said he was thankful the UN had extended the deadline.
“I am pleased to note that the UN has agreed to grant us an extension to our 2009 landmine clearing deadline under the Ottawa Declaration,” Mugabe said.
The President shifted his failure to meet the set deadline on the settler colonial regime that planted the landmines.
“The landmines show the cold-heated nature of the brutal settler regime that was meant to stop the Zimbabweans from fighting them in our quest to gain our independence. 29 years on, they are still planted, posing a threat to people and livestock. We hope to clear the landmines so that we may open up areas for tourism,” he said.
Political analysts however blamed Mugabe for having inverted priorities set for the army, which spend most of its years beating up people and quashing political opponents, as well as grabbing land, instead of concentrating on other developmental issues expected in a non war zone.
“It shows that Mugabe dedicated the army to other duties only for his benefit, like participating in the political violence of last year. Those are upside-down priorities. The army should concentrate on other projects like building bridges, de-mining, among others in a non-war zone, not to be used by one person to strengthen his grip on power,” said Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (PTUZ) president Takavafira Zhou.
Last year, the army has been blamed for the political violence among the then opposition Movement For Democratic (MDC) party during the run-up to last year’s sham June 27 presidential runoff polls that saw Mugabe retaining power by force.
Mugabe however on Tuesday he rejected accusations that soldiers had committed abuses, either during last year’s campaign and voting or more recently under the unity government. He lauded the military for keeping law and order.
"Allegations of gross abuses of human rights or failure to respect good governance have provided fodder for the West and its media," said Mugabe, who remains commander in chief in the unity government. "The peace and stability have over the years angered our detractors as they have sought desperately and without good reason to find wrongdoing on our part as the defense forces."
According to the MDC, more than 100 of its supporters were murdered while more than 5 000 people were displaced internally and externally, leaving hordes injured and homeless.