Mugabe to hide behind sanctions mantra at SADC Summit

Harare – Robert Mugabe will tell regional leaders at a summit in the DRC next week that Western sanctions are to blame for his country's failure to quickly emerge from an economic crisis, his spokesman said Thursday.

George Charamba, Mugabe’s chief spokesman, was quoted by state- controlled media Thursday as saying that Mugabe would tell the 15- nation Southern African Development Community (SADC) that targeted Western sanctions were the "the single largest threat to the fulfilment of the … agreement."

Charamba was referring to the six-month-old power-sharing agreement between Mugabe’s Zanu-PF and the former opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) of Morgan Tsvangirai.

Although the coalition government has managed to rein in hyperinflation and get public service workers back on the job, its progress towards an economic turnaround has been blocked by quarrels between the parties.

The MDC accuses Mugabe of failing to break with his past government’s repressive policies and blocking the implementation of democratic reforms, as called for in the power-sharing accord.

Among the sticking points are Mugabe’s refusal to rescind his unilateral appointments of his cronies to the posts of central bank and attorney-general and the ongoing harassment of opposition activists and white farmers, among others.

For Mugabe to back down on these issues was "inconceivable," according to Charamba, who said of the 85-year-old leader of 29 years: he "cannot budge."

The MDC has referred the issues to SADC, which brokered the Zimbabwe agreement. The party and its supporters are hoping that Zimbabwe’s neighbours will end their long-standing support for Mugabe at the Kinshasa meeting.

Charamba said Mugabe would tell SADC that Western travel bans and asset freezes on Mugabe, Zanu-PF top brass and allied companies "had a devastating impact … on the generality of the people and economic turnaround efforts."

South African President Jacob Zuma, during a visit to Zimbabwe last week, however blamed the slow progress on Mugabe’s failure to meet "certain benchmarks" set by Western donors.

The power-sharing government was established to try to end Zimbabwe’s twin political and economic crises. An estimated 100 MDC supporters were murdered in disputed presidential elections last year, while the economy hit rock bottom and inflation hit 500 billion per cent.

The cash-strapped government has so far obtained only a fraction of the 10 billion dollars in aid it said it needed to rebuild the economy.