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Mugabe threatens to seize foreign businesses

Video by Jody JENKINS

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2011-03-04

Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe has threatened to nationalise large foreign firms in retaliation against Western sanctions targeting his regime, a move critics say could deal a further blow to an already struggling economy.

REUTERS - Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe on Wednesday threatened a state-backed takeover of foreign firms and a boycott of products in retaliation for Western sanctions against him and his ZANU-PF party.

The European Union and United States have imposed a travel ban and financial sanctions on Mugabe and his ZANU-PF allies over suspected human rights abuses spanning more than a decade as well as election fraud.
 
"It is now time to take action. Indigenisation and empowerment should start with those companies. We must take them over. We are not ashamed of that," Mugabe told thousands of supporters at an outdoor rally in the capital, Harare.
 
He called for a boycott of foreign products in a state with an estimated $6 billion gross domestic product which is not a major revenue generator for most foreign firms.
 
"If we know that some of them have products which we are buying, including foodstuffs, before we seize those companies, we can boycott their products," he said.
 
Mugabe has said previously ZANU-PF will nationalise firms from countries that have imposed sanctions, arguing they cannot operate freely while Western powers punish his party.
 
The threats added to the worries of foreign investors in the resource-rich country, which introduced a law specifying 51 percent of firms worth over $500,000 should be owned by black Zimbabweans.
 
"But we also want to hear whether they (companies) say the sanctions are evil. They should be removed, that is the likes of Barclays and Standard Chartered," Mugabe said while launching a campaign to get 2 million signatures denouncing the sanctions.
 
Mugabe supporters held placards saying "Sanctions do kill", "Start with Old Mutual" while others had a "hit list" of foreign firms that should be taken over.
 
Officials from the rival Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), forced into a power-sharing government after disputed 2008 elections, have been campaigning for foreign investment to prop up the state's staggering economy.
 
Mugabe's rival, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, told a news conference he boycotted the launch of the anti-sanctions drive because he viewed it as a ZANU-PF initiative.
 
"The organising, the slogans and the abuses were by ZANU-PF. There was no way we were going to attend. Besides, how can I attend a function where I will be vilified," he said.
 
MDC officials have said Mugabe's call for an election this year, ahead of a plan drawn up in the power-sharing deal, would devastate a nascent recovery in Zimbabwe whose economy was devastated by hyperinflation about two years ago.
 
Analysts said years of mismanagement by Mugabe and ZANU-PF were to blame for the economic woes, but Mugabe, 87, who has been in power since independence from Britain in 1980, has laid the blame in large part on the sanctions.
 
The call for early elections has set off more violence between ZANU-PF and MDC supporters, while the police have threatened to crack down on any Egypt-style protests aimed at toppling one of Africa's longest-serving rulers.
 
Tsvangirai denounced the arrest last week of 46 political activists accused of plotting anti-Mugabe demonstrations at a meeting where they watched videos of protests in North Africa.

 

Date created : 2011-03-03

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