Cape Town — THE ongoing clean-up operation embarked upon by Zimbabwean authorities is necessary to deal with some of the activities compounding economic difficulties facing the country, Tanzanian President Benjamin Mkapa has said.
The campaign, said President Mkapa yesterday, was necessary to wipe out a secondary economy that was becoming increasingly active and exacerbating challenges the economy was already contending with.
He was responding to questions from journalists at the Africa Economic Summit being held here.
Critics of "Operation Murambatsvina", including the West, have viewed it as an attack on the livelihood of ordinary Zimbabweans.
"A secondary economy should be dealt with in any economy, especially during the time when attempts are being made to re-establish stability. The Government of Zimbabwe is just trying to formalise the economy," Mr Mkapa said.
Over the past few weeks, police and local authorities have been demolishing illegal settlements, flea markets and tuck shops and other unauthorised business operations, most of whose owners were actively involved in the parallel market for foreign currency and black market for basic commodities.
Such activities were inducing inflationary pressures on an economy that was seeking to bring down the annual rate of inflation to double-digit levels by the end of the year.
Inflation has since been identified by fiscal and monetary authorities as Zimbabwe's number one enemy.
On politics, Cde Mkapa said continued hostilities towards Zimbabwe by Western countries was a resuscitation of old prejudices against the country's firm assertion to manage its own affairs.
Responding to questions at a Press conference on aid to Africa at the Africa Economic Summit underway here, President Mkapa passionately defended Zimbabwe and said the stance by the West could not be tolerated, particularly at a time when the entire continent sought to engage the Group of Eight leading industrial nations (G-8) and other states and blocs in its endeavour to address current economic and social challenges.
"We are doing enough to explain Zimbabwe's situation to the world, but some have decided to be deaf to what we say. What can we do about it?" he said.
"All we hear are sanctimonious and pious statements that are totally abhorrent. I mean every word of it," he said, in apparent reference to the criticism and bad Press Zimbabwe continued to endure.
Cde Mkapa said Zimbabwe's land reform programme, which had attracted so much demonisation from the West, was justified given the country's historical background.
The few anomalies in its implementation that were now being corrected, including the fate of farm workers on farms that had been designated, did not neutralise or make illegitimate the need to redistribute land.
"The few problems experienced do not take away the fundamental need to balance and restore the ownership of a country to its people," said Cde Mkapa in a no-holds-barred defence of Zimbabwe's sovereignty.
He criticised attempts by some journalists to compare Zimbabwe and Tanzania in terms of their economic and political landscape, stressing that the latter had only been occupied by a few settlers who were sympathetic to the cause of the Tanzanians unlike in the case of Zimbabweans, where the indigenous people had been forced off fertile land and were denied their rights during colonial rule.
"The history of our countries is different and, therefore, the path to restoring the voice and ownership of the countries will be different between Tanzania and Zimbabwe.
"As African leaders, we are trying to explain to the Western countries the peculiarities of the Zimbabwean situation, but they have decided to hold on to their old prejudices."
Cde Mkapa also refuted suggestions that the ruling Zanu-PF had rigged the 2005 parliamentary elections held on March 31.
"I see no dispute to the elections in March. These are just attempts to discredit the Government. I have no doubts about the legitimacy of the Government of Zimbabwe," he said.
Cde Mkapa said African leaders would continue to use every available opportunity or channel to tell the Zimbabwean story in their endeavour to rid the international community, particularly the West, of the prejudices it had over Zimbabwe.
"We have to talk to all those that refuse to see the facts on Zimbabwe," he said.
The Zimbabwean Government, he said, was being blamed even for natural occurrences that were not of its own making and were beyond it such as drought.