Mugabe the Defiant

Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe on Tuesday said his government would work to cultivate links with developing nations to counter diplomatic pressure from Western nations aiming at regime change.

In an address during the official opening of Zimbabwe’s parliament, the president said the poverty-stricken country, toiling with unemployment at 70 per cent and inflation topping 300 per cent a year, faced an outside world as “dangerous as it is unjust.”

Mugabe was opposed to the US-backed invasion of Iraq, which he considered imperialistic.

Western leaders have lambasted Mugabe for apparent human rights abuses and the expropriation of white-owned farms, and have been quick to place sanctions on the country.

In a message to politicians, he said: “We have to recover lost alliances, resuscitate those that are dormant, and reconstruct those we may have neglected, because it has become clear that the evolving global environment is unkind to the small, dangerous to the weak and the isolated, and tempting to the greedy.”

The 79-year old’s election this month to deputy chairman of the African Union boosted the president’s confidence to look for friends amid growing international adversity.

He said: “Such an election was meant to send an eloquent message to those who have spitefully sought our isolation and ruin.”

Neighbour South Africa has called for “quiet diplomacy” to bring the wayward regime back on board, internationally.

In the speech, he also condemned agitators on home soil and said the “full wrath” of the law would be unleashed to curb civil unrest.

“I strongly warn those who seek to indulge in attempts to create political instability will face the full wrath of the law,” he said.

Separately, Zimbabwe has been invited to take part in the Global 2003 Smart Partnership International Dialogue in Swaziland next month. At present, at least 13 heads of state from Africa, Mr Mugabe, will attend. About 350 representatives from business, labour, civil servants, women and youth groups are also expected to take part.