'Roy Bennett is not Zimbabwean' – Mugabe

HARARE – Robert Mugabe on Friday said Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s choice for deputy agriculture minister in the unity government is an “offspring of a settler” and not Zimbabwean, a remark likely to further strain the country’s coalition government.

Addressing his ZANU PF party congress in Harare the 85-year-old Mugabe attacked Morgan Tsvangirai’s MDC party as a puppet of the West. 

“They (Movement for Democratic Change –MDC) asked for sanctions . . . they need to be re-orientated,” said Mugabe diverting from his prepared speech. “To the MDC I say: Open your eyes. This is your country and not for whites. Not the Bennetts. They are settlers, even if they were born here they are offsprings of settlers. We must ask for a day when we pray for the re-adjustment of our mental set up.”

Bennett, is a white commercial farmer who was driven off his land by Mugabe’s controversial land reform targeting whites. Mugabe has refused to appoint Bennett as deputy agriculture minister in the coalition government saying he must first be cleared of terrorism charges he is facing. 

The ZANU PF congress ends on Saturday and the party has already nominated Mugabe as its presidential candidate in the country’s next elections. No date has yet been announced for the election.

Mugabe repeated his calls for Western countries to remove sanctions they imposed on him and senior members of ZANU PF in 2002 following a spate of human rights abuses and allegations of a rigged election. Mugabe said the sanctions were “unjustified” and meant to punish him for his controversial land reform programme.

“If you have a rich country, well naturally-resourced – whether mineral, agricultural, or otherwise, they envy these resources, they find ways of penetrating your system,” said Mugabe, drawing an applause from thousands of his supporters.

The former guerrilla leader who has ruled the country since independence from Britain in 1980 said Britain formed the MDC “to change revolutionary trends in Zimbabwe. That is how the MDC was formed. They (Great Britain) did not hide this. They were blatant.”

Mugabe added that the coalition government had brought peace and stability, but attacked Finance Minister Tendai Biti from Tsvangirai’s MDC for refusing to use funds from the International Monetary IMF to buy farming implements. 

“We know we are having difficulties, but the country has money. But the government is unable to supply inputs yet the government has SDRs issued by IMF. They (SDRs) are frozen because one individual thinks they should not be used. That is wrong. That is absolutely wrong,” said Mugabe. “We must be a government that supplies the needs of our people.”  

Mugabe and Tsvangirai formed the power sharing government in February following an inconclusive election that the Southern African Development Community (SADC), African Union and the international community refused to recognise.

Tsvangirai had trounced Mugabe in the first round although he failed to reach the margin required to avoid a run-off with Mugabe. The veteran leader’s supporters waged a ruthless campaign of violence to force Tsvangirai to withdraw from the second round presidential poll that analysts had strongly tipped the former trade unionist to win.

The government of national unity has been able to halt the economy from sinking deeper into the mire but has struggled to ensure the rule of law and to uphold human rights.

The unity government is also being hobbled by disagreements over how to fully implement terms of last year’s power-sharing pact – also known as the Global political Agreement – and ZANU PF, Tsvangirai’s MDC and its splinter group are in negotiations to end the disputes.

In his address to the ZANU PF congress yesterday, Mugabe admitted for the first time that he lost an election but attributed the loss to internal squabbles tearing his party.

Retired General Solomon Mujuru and Defence Minister Emmerson Mnangagwa lead factions vying to lead the party when Mugabe steps down but Mujuru seems to have got an upper hand this year after his wife Joice was nominated by a majority of the party’s provinces to remain as Mugabe’s deputy, seen as a springboard to the top party post. – ZimOnline