14 November 2013

Zimbabwe: Ignore Mugabe Threats, Western Investors Told

A CABINET minister insisted Thursday that Zimbabwe was open to investment from the West despite a threat by President Robert Mugabe to seize US and British companies over sanctions imposed against the country.

Fresh from securing a new five-year mandate to run the country but angered by the West's refusal to accept his re-election and remove damaging economic sanctions, Mugabe threatened what he described as "tit-for-tat" measures in August.

"They should not continue to harass us, the British and Americans," Mugabe raged as he buried air force chief retired Air Commodore Mike Karakadzai at the Heroes Acre outside Harare.

"We have not done anything to their companies here, the British have several companies in this country, and we have not imposed any controls, any sanctions against them, but time will come when we will say well, tit-for-tat, you hit me I hit you."

But his new finance minister Patrick Chinamasa, faced with the tough task of righting an economy wrecked by a decade-long recession, sounded conciliatory as he addressed Western envoys in Harare on Thursday.

Chinamasa was briefing the ambassadors on the country's new economic blueprint, ZimAsset.

"The blueprint takes into account the existence of overriding existing threats and sanctions as well as hostile measures from some countries," he said.

"This Zim Asset document is saying not withstanding our political differences Zimbabwe stands ready to allow our economies to talk to each other, we hope that the lifting of sanctions will be sooner rather than later.

"Before the lifting of sanctions please let us start the groundwork for economies to talk to each other, business people to talk to each other, and economic relations be established."

Mugabe had hoped the July 31 vote, endorsed by African observers would result in the European Union (EU) and the US lifting sanctions he blames for the country's economic strife.

The sanctions were imposed more than a decade ago over allegations of vote fraud and human rights abuses although Mugabe believes the aim was to punish him for his land reforms.

The US and the EU have however refused to remove the sanctions, backing claims by opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai that the elections fraudulent.

Britain said Mugabe's re-election could not be deemed credible without an independent investigation into allegations of voting irregularities while U.S. officials said the vote was flawed adding Washington had no plans to loosen sanctions until there were signs of change in the country.

In contrast, observers from the regional 15-nation Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the African Union broadly endorsed the vote as free and peaceful, and called on all parties to accept the results.

Although reviled in Western capitals, Mugabe enjoys support in Africa for his uncompromising stance against Western imperialism.

The veteran leader, who turns 90 next February, dismisses Western critics as racist.

"They think, we the blacks are inferior, they are superior. But in Zimbabwe we will never accept that a white man, merely because he is white is superior, no. We will chase them away," he told supports at the August funeral.

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