By Cris Chinaka
HARARE- Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe has blasted Western critics of his controversial policies and rights record, and vowed he will never retreat or surrender to a “neo-colonialist” onslaught.
Mugabe, 82 and i
n power since independence from Britain in 1980, is accused of plunging his southern African state into political and economic crisis by seizing white-owned farms and destroying the key agricultural sector, rigging elections and waging a violent campaign against the opposition.
Speaking at a dinner he hosted for Equatorial Guinea’s visiting President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, Mugabe said his government had been targeted by Western powers, particularly Britain and the United States, for empowering Zimbabwe’s black majority and for resolutely defending its political rights.
“We stand by our principles and shall never retreat, capitulate or shirk our responsibility,” he said to applause at the dinner attended by hundreds of Zimbabwean officials and some foreign diplomats late on Wednesday.
“Those opposed to our principles have enlisted the services of like-minded countries and their leaders, and deceitfully and dishonestly used the media … vilifying us as undemocratic because we have dared to put the interests of the poor and down-trodden first,” he added.
Mugabe accused the United States and Britain of invading Iraq over false charges, and of pursuing a neo-colonialist strategy over Zimbabwe, a former British colony.
“The born-again democrats in London and Washington would like to hoodwink the world on the situation in Zimbabwe in the very same manner they have done on Iraq,” he charged.
Mugabe called on developing countries to defend their independence, and said Zimbabwe would discuss political, trade and business deals with Equatorial Guinea during Obiang’s visit.
One of Mugabe’s senior officials said on Wednesday Zimbabwe hoped to strike an oil supply deal with Equatorial Guinea to help ease its chronic fuel shortages.
Obiang said he was in Zimbabwe to consolidate ties established two years ago after Harare helped break up an alleged international coup plot directed at the oil-rich West African state.
Without giving details, Obiang, who praised Mugabe at the dinner as an illustrious and courageous leader, said his country was ready to forge stronger links with Zimbabwe.
“I can assure you that you can always count on the support of the government and people of Equatorial Guinea to do their best,” he said.
Equatorial Guinea, sub-Saharan Africa’s third largest oil producer, is a welcome friend for Zimbabwe as it struggles with economic meltdown and isolation from Western countries which have criticised Mugabe over accusations of repression.
Mugabe’s government played a key role in 2004 in breaking up an alleged coup plot directed against Obiang, himself frequently described as one of Africa’s most repressive leaders.
Zimbabwe arrested some 70 South African mercenaries who had stopped in Harare as part of the alleged plot and a Zimbabwe court later sentenced the group’s alleged leader Simon Mann, a former British special forces officer, to seven years in jail on weapons charges. — Reuter