Mugabe scorns ‘vile’ western countries as he begins seventh term

Political rival Morgan Tsvangirai boycotted the inauguration ceremony

Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe derided his arch enemies abroad during his inauguration speech yesterday, calling western nations “vile” after he was sworn into office for five more years in this his seventh term.

Mr Mugabe’s political nemesis at home, Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) leader Morgan Tsvangirai, boycotted the ceremony. The MDC leader made his decision after claiming Mr Mugabe’s Zanu-PF party had rigged the general elections on July 31st, which saw his party cruise to victory in both the presidential and parliamentary vote.

Dressed in a dapper suit draped with a sash, and military medals pinned to his chest, Mr Mugabe (89) told the crowd at the 60,000-capacity stadium that better times were ahead for Zimbabweans.

“The mining sector will be the centrepiece of our economic recovery and growth. It should generate growth spurts across sector, reignite that economic miracle which must now happen,” he said.


Expropriation policy
During his election campaign Mr Mugabe said his party would expand its policy of expropriating majority stakes in foreign-owned businesses if it was elected. Many believe the economic miracle he seeks will be drawn from this process of empowering Zimbabweans through the spoils derived from the state-led expropriation policy.

In what has become his standard anti-western position, Mr Mugabe said his country must continue to look to Asian countries for economic opportunities because western nations were unlikely to drop their sanctions against senior members of Zanu-PF.

“As for the odd western countries who happen to hold a different, negative view of our electoral process . . . we dismiss them as the vile ones whose moral turpitude we must mourn,” Mr Mugabe said to rapturous applause.

Legitimacy of poll
Britain, Australia, Canada and the United States have all questioned the legitimacy of the July 31st poll, following claims by local election observers that up to one million Zimbabweans were disenfranchised by Zanu-PF.

Other than Botswana, African nations have been much less critical and have accepted the result, despite acknowledging there were numerous problems.

The MDC launched two legal actions to try and have the result-compiling process investigated, but both were thrown out of court on Tuesday. This paved the way for the inauguration ceremony to take place 48 hours later.

Zanu-PF supporters at the stadium carried messages praising the African leaders who legitimised their victory. “Africa has spoken, respect its voice,” read one banner.

Most regional leaders, including South African president Jacob Zuma, who was the regional mediator in the country’s political crisis, did not attend despite being invited.

Tanzania’s Jakaya Kikwete, Namibia’s Hifikepunye Pohamba and the Democratic Republic of Congo’s Joseph Kabila attended.

Bill Corcoran

Bill Corcoran

Bill Corcoran is a contributor to The Irish Times based in South Africa