3 June 2005

Zimbabwe: Tanzania's President Defends Mugabe

Cape Town — Tanzanian President Benjamin Mkapa strongly defended Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe at a meeting of the World Economic Forum in Cape Town yesterday.

"Zimbabwe has a right to manage its own affairs," Mkapa said yesterday.

In reply to a journalist's question about his views on developments in Zimbabwe, Mkapa said Mugabe's land-redistribution programme was, "returning the ownership of the country to its people".

His remarks have confirmed further the Southern African Development Community's reluctance to distance itself from Mugabe on governance issues.

But the Tanzanian president's strident remarks in support of Mugabe also run counter to the message that the World Economic Forum is pushing at its Cape Town meeting - that of a continent increasingly unprepared to tolerate poor governance.

Issues of governance and accountability and how Africa can establish a common brand to promote the continent to investors are the focus of talks at the Cape Town meeting.

Tanzania has over the past decade established a good reputation among investors for what is widely regarded as friendly environment for business.

Mkapa said he felt emotional about Zimbabwe and particularly about what he saw as the west's unjust criticism.

As he would be leaving office when his term ended in a few months' time, he now felt free to speak out on Zimbabwe.

The Tanzanian president said he found "sanctimonious and pious declarations" by western countries about Zimbabwe "totally abhorrent".

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