Mon, Dec 22, 2008 - Page 6 News List

Mugabe refuses ‘political death’

‘NEVER SURRENDER’ The 84-year-old Zimbabwean leader again brushed off calls for him to step down while promising to stick to controversial land reform policies

AFP , BINDURA, ZIMBABWE

Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe addresses a crowd at the burial of ZANU-PF political commissar Elliot Manyika in Harare, Zimbabwe, on Dec. 11.

PHOTO: EPA

Zimbabwe Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe again dismissed demands that he step down on Saturday, saying he would not go to his “political death” and urged his party to be ready for new polls in Zimbabwe. The 84-year-old leader used his ZANU-PF party’s 10th annual congress to brush off international pressure to quit office as his country buckles under a ruinous political crisis, economic meltdown and a cholera epidemic.

“It doesn’t matter what happens, Zimbabwe is my country,” the veteran president told the conference, a day after declaring he would “never surrender.”

“They now want to topple the Mugabe government. ‘Mugabe must go because [US President George W.] Bush is going,’” he said, referring to the president who leaves office in January and who is among the world leaders to have called for his resignation.

“Zimbabweans will refuse that one of their sons must accompany Bush to his political death,” Mugabe said in a speech that lambasted familiar targets.

Mugabe urged his party to remain united to avoid a repeat of its historic election defeat in March, when the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) won control of parliament.

However, the opposition ceded the presidency to Mugabe when challenger Morgan Tsvangirai pulled out of a second-round run off citing violence against his supporters.

Mugabe, who has threatened early elections, urged his ZANU-PF party to shape up for possible polls.

“We don’t want to be shamed again like what happened in March,” he said. “If elections are called we should be confident of victory. Provinces should start strengthening the party.”

“The message from the meeting is that we must be united against all forces of disunity, all forces within and outside the country that seek to destroy our one-ness,” he said.

Mugabe also vowed that controversial land reform policies would not change.

“We will never allow regression in regard to our land policy,” Mugabe said.

Wrapping up his speech, Mugabe broke into an often repeated slogan: “Zimbabwe will never be ...” he chanted and the crowd answered with “... a colony again.”

The party held its conference against a backdrop of internal division and mounting international pressure to agree a power-sharing deal with Tsvangirai’s MDC.

ZANU-PF acknowledged internal divisions in a report, admitting it “has been facing factionalism within its ranks for a long time.”

It said two high-profile defections from the party in March — top officials Simba Makoni and Dumiso Dabenga — were “still posing a serious threat.”

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