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Mugabe looks east, continues attacking C’wealth

3rd December 2003

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Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe set sights on the east yesterday and pursued his attack on the Commonwealth in a state of the nation address, while acknowledging some of his government's economic policies have failed.

Mugabe, who last week indicated that Zimbabwe was ready to quit the international body after he was left out of this week's Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Nigeria, accused some Commonwealth members of perverting his country's sovereignty.

He specifically named Australia, New Zealand and Britain, the former colonial power, as an "anglo-saxon unholy alliance against Zimbabwe".

He said the "unilateral interference in the internal political affairs of other countries, especially smaller states," by the global high-handed Western nations had forced Zimbabwe to consider turning to the East for new partners.

"Recent events in Iraq have clearly shown that a unipolar order that presently govern international relations is both unjust and unsustainable.

It is a source of conflict, and even of war," he warned.

China, he said, was increasingly becoming "an alternative global power point" indicating "a new alternative direction, which in fact could be the foundation of a new global paradigm".

He stressed that "Zimbabwe must work for this new paradigm, which is founded on principles of sovereignty and independence".

"Our continued membership of the Commonwealth ... is dependent on this fundamental consideration, currently being vitiated by Britain, Australia and New Zealand - the anglo-saxon unholy alliance against Zimbabwe," he said.

Mugabe acknowledged in his 30-minute address that some of his government's economic policies have failed.

"It is quite clear to us that the two-tier exchange rate and the two-tier economy cannot take us forward," Mugabe said.

In February the government devalued the local currency, avoiding the use of the word "devalue" saying it had introduced a new exchange rate for exporters.

That left the old exchange rate of 55 units to the US dollar for all government transactions while everyone else traded at 824 units to the dollar.

But that exchange rate has not been sustained due to chronic shortages of foreign exchange, which has created a parallel market where the dollar is trading at around 6 000 Zimbabwe dollars.

The country is struggling to cope with deep economic crisis characterised by hyperinflation, poverty, 70% unemployment levels and shortages of most basics.

Without giving details, Mugabe said "the coming year should see a vigorous enforcement of well-designed turn-around programmes across all the sectors".

Meantime, the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), said Mugabe's speech showed lack of depth and commitment to crucial issues.

"He gave no evidence that he even had a clue that the country is burning and is in need of emergency measures to stop human suffering," said MDC spokesperson Paul Themba Nyathi in a statement.

"He gave the same old populist promises. He made no commitment to his retirement or to talks with the MDC," he added.

The issue of Mugabe's exit from power currently remain speculative as his party announced this week that even the forthcoming Zanu-PF annual conference will not discuss Mugabe's successor. – Sapa-AFP.
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