Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe on Friday threatened to nationalize British and US companies if a slew of international sanctions against him and his inner circle were not dropped.
The veteran leader told the annual conference of his ZANU-PF party that it was time to take “revenge” against the international community by using a law that allows the state to take over foreign firms operating on Zimbabwean soil.
Mugabe, 86, and his inner circle are subject to travel bans and asset freezes in the EU and the US, which accuse his government of human rights abuses and denials of basic freedoms.
The Indigenization and Empowerment Act took effect on March 1, and it requires all large foreign corporations to give majority stakes to local shareholders.
Mugabe’s arch-foe but power-sharing partner, Zimbabwean Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, and his Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) believes the law will deter much-needed investment in an economy that has been ravaged in the past decade.
International companies operating in Zimbabwe include BP, Total, Chevron, Barclays Bank, Standard Chartered Bank and platinum giant Zimplats.
“Why should we continue to have 400 British companies operating here freely?” Mugabe told more than 4,000 members of his ZANU-PF party in the eastern city of Mutare.
“Why should we continue having companies and organizations that are supported by Britain and America without hitting back? Time has come for us to revenge,” he said to loud applause from supporters.
“We can read the riot act and say this is 51 percent we are taking and if the sanctions persist we are taking over 100 percent,” he said.
Mugabe, who for months has been pushing for new elections, also said the power-sharing government is not working and must end, putting him on a collision course with Tsvangirai and the former opposition MDC.
The two men have been at loggerheads for months amid mounting tension in a country where rights groups say hundreds of political activists were killed during the last presidential election in 2008.
Mugabe said the uneasy arrangement with the MDC should be dissolved.