Zimbabwe’s Mugabe: Party ready to regain dominance

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HARARE, Zimbabwe (AP) — Zimbabwe’s president said Saturday his party is ready to regain its political dominance, likening it to a fast-moving train that would crush those who stood in its way.

Winding up the annual convention of his ZANU-PF party, President Robert Mugabe said the party was “rejuvenated” after losing its parliamentary majority in the last elections. He described it as a “fired, fueled, fast-moving train.”

Mugabe has called for national elections next year to bring an end to the shaky two-year coalition with Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, a former longtime opposition leader.

But in his closing address to 4,500 party loyalists, Mugabe stopped short of declaring a timetable for future elections. He has been in power in Zimbabwe for 30 years.

Tsvangirai’s party argues the nation is not ready for elections next year, citing economic woes and long delays in rewriting the nation’s outdated constitution.

The coalition was formed after violence-marred elections in 2008 that lost Mugabe his three-decade parliamentary majority. Tsvangirai and his Movement for Democratic Change party boycotted a presidential runoff poll, citing torture, intimidation and illegal arrests of his supporters.

Mugabe described the convention in the eastern city of Mutare as two historical days that would chart the party’s work in future months.

“We are back on the revolutionary rails,” Mugabe said.

He said delegates gave momentum to black empowerment programs. Tsvangirai’s party insists that business takeovers are scaring away much needed investors in the embattled economy.

Mugabe said foreign banks and financial institutions will be scrutinized under the empowerment drive.

“Don’t expect your banks here to remain the same as they have been,” he said.

Foreign mining interests were removing gold and minerals from the country and making money from them. “This must now stop,” Mugabe said.

Foreign companies whose nations imposed targeted sanctions involving travel and banking bans on Mugabe and his party leaders also faced measures against them.

“We will be very, very strict to the extent of even refusing investment from their countries”, said Mugabe.

On Friday, Mugabe warned that unless sanctions are removed his party will take 100 percent of Western firms. Under the current empowerment laws, black Zimbabweans can acquire a 51 percent stake in main businesses.

Britain, the former colonial power, the U.S. and the European Union enforced restrictions on Mugabe and his party elite to protest democratic and human rights violations in a decade of political and economic turmoil.

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