Mugabe urges `cowards' to resign from cabinet

 

President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe has called on cowards to quit his cabinet, saying he is not prepared to work with ministers who are unable to face political and economic challenges.

Mr Mugabe told guests at a state luncheon after the opening of a new session of parliament that he could only work with real men, the government-owned Herald newspaper reported yesterday.

In his first public comment on the resignation of the Industry and International Trade Minister, Mr Nkosana Moyo, earlier this year, Mr Mugabe said Mr Moyo had got cold feet.

"There is no minister of industry and commerce at the moment. The one who was there developed cold feet and ran away," Mr Mugabe said. "I do not want ministers who are in the habit of running away. I want those I can call amadoda sibili [real men], people with spine."

Mr Moyo did not give his reasons for resigning in April, but his associates said he was frustrated with Mr Mugabe's leadership, especially after militant ruling ZANU-PF party supporters began invading businesses and extorting money.

Mr Mugabe (77), who led a guerrilla war for independence, said there had been no room for cowards in the country's liberation struggle and there was none now in his political programme.

"If some of you [cabinet ministers] are getting weak-kneed, tell us and we will continue with the struggle," he said.

There is a severe economic crisis, which many blame on government mismanagement.

Mr Mugabe, who says his political and economic problems are a result of sabotage by opponents, denied Zimbabwe is facing food shortages, and said the country's economy would never collapse.

The Finance Minister, Mr Simba Makoni, has warned of food shortages, saying there is no money in the country's budget for imports.

Chris McGreal reports from Johannesburg: The South African government is wielding the courts, the police and a lot of invective to reassure the rest of the world that the country's blossoming land crisis is nothing like Zimbabwe's.

But South Africa's difficult neighbour may not be the example it has to fear. That privilege will soon fall to Brazil.

In the coming days an array of militant and increasingly popular land-rights groups throughout the country will launch an organisation to co-ordinate occupations. At the forefront of the group will be the National Land Committee (NLC). "There will be a land grab. It just depends on how it happens," the NLC's deputy director, Mr Tom Lebert, said.

The National Landless Peoples Grouping, as the umbrella body is provisionally called, will bring together local organisations which have led land seizures in recent months. The NLPG will model its strategy on land grabs in Brazil, Mr Lebert said.

"The constitution in Brazil has a `use it or lose it' clause. You can't just own land, it has to be put to productive use. Landless people occupy land that is under-utilised and they force the government to implement the constitution," he said.