Whites are real enemy, warns Mugabe

 

President Robert Mugabe yesterday urged black Zimbabweans to unite against whites and strike fear into their hearts, blaming a "racist" minority for the country's deepening economic crisis.

"Our party must continue to strike fear in the heart of the white man, our real enemy," Mr Mugabe shouted to about 7,000 cheering supporters at a crucial congress of his governing ZANU-PF party.

"They think because they are white they have a divine right to our resources. Not here. Never again."

Analysts said Mugabe's rousing address was a determined effort to revive flagging support for his party, but he skirted the real issues of whether his two decades of leadership should continue and how to rescue Zimbabwe's economy.

"He is playing to the gallery, but the average Zimbabwean needs practical solutions," said Dr Alfred Nhema, chairman of the University of Zimbabwe's Department of Political Science.

"The ruling party has to create jobs for Zimbabweans - if the congress cannot address the bread-and-butter issues it has failed to tackle the most challenging issue for most people."

Mr Mugabe vowed to continue commandeering white-owned farms for redistribution to landless blacks and said the courts, which have twice declared the land grab illegal, would not stop him.

"The courts can do whatever they want, but no judicial decision will stand in our way . . . My own position is that we should not even be defending our position in the courts. This country is our country and this land is our land.

"The white man is not indigenous to Africa. Africa is for Africans. Zimbabwe is for Zimbabweans," Mr Mugabe (76) said to wild shouts and applause from party delegates.

Some commentators warned that if Western donor support - cut over Mr Mugabe's controversial policies - was not reinstated soon Zimbabwe's failing economy might send people into the streets. "He's digging the hole deeper, he is offering no way out," one observer said.

Prices have soared by 60 per cent since last year and chronic fuel shortages mean people cannot get to work. Many firms are telling employees their jobs may be gone in the new year.

Party sources have said Mr Mugabe's leadership ahead of presidential elections in 2002 could be on the agenda for the three-day congress, but he made no mention of his own position.

Mr Mugabe's lieutenants are adamant that he will stay, but some analysts say the party is doomed if he does.