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denies blame for Zimbabwe woes
Robert Mugabe, in a rare interview Thursday, depicted himself as
an African hero battling imperialism and foreign attempts to oust
him rather than the widespread perception of a dictator clinging
to power at the expense of the welfare of his people and country.
The 85-year-old Mugabe,
the only leader of Zimbabwe since it became independent from Britain
in 1980, rejected repeated assertions by CNN's Christiane Amanpour
that his policies have driven the nation once known as Africa's
breadbasket to virtual economic collapse.
Instead, Mugabe accused
Britain and the United States of seeking to oust him by imposing
economic sanctions, the effects of which he said were worsened by
years of drought.
He denied that his country
is in economic shambles, saying it grew enough food last year to
feed all its people, and defended policies that have driven white
farmers off their land as properly restoring that land to indigenous
"The land reform
is the best thing (that) could have ever have happened to an African
country," said Mugabe, a former revolutionary leader who came
to power when white-ruled Rhodesia became black-ruled Zimbabwe.
"It has to do with national sovereignty."
It was Mugabe's first
interview with a Western television network in several years, and
he appeared to get frustrated with some of Amanpour's direct questioning,
repeatedly denying widely accepted evidence and reports on his nation's
Mugabe denied that his
Zanu(PF) party lost elections in 2008 that forced him to accept
a power-sharing agreement with his chief rival, Morgan Tsvangirai,
who now is prime minister. Violence surrounding the disputed election,
much of it against opposition supporters, further damaged Zimbabwe's
standing, but Mugabe rejected any blame on Thursday.
"You don't leave
power when imperialists dictate that you leave," he insisted.
"There is regime change. Haven't you heard of (the) regime
change program by Britain and the United States that is aimed at
getting not just Robert Mugabe out of power but get Robert Mugabe
and his party out of power?"
He also waved
off Amanpour's assertion that the power-sharing arrangement is not
working, and that opposition political figures are continuing to
get harassed and arrested.
Asked about Roy Bennett,
a white opposition figure who has yet to be sworn in as agriculture
minister a year after formation of the power-sharing government,
Mugabe stammered before saying Bennett faces charges of "organizing
arms of war" against Zimbabwe. He added that he's heard the
prosecution lacks evidence in the case, but said he won't agree
to swearing in Bennett until after any charges are dropped.
Mugabe also denied any
responsibility for harm to the nation from his economic policies,
instead blaming what he called "unjustified" and "illegal"
sanctions that he said were intended to bring regime change.
"The sanctions must
be lifted. We should have no interference from outside," Mugabe
said. "The continued imperialist interference in our affairs
is affecting our country adversely."
When Amanpour challenged
him by saying most of the sanctions were directed at individuals,
rather than economic entities, Mugabe said she was wrong.
"The U.S. sanctions
are real sanctions, economic sanctions. Have you looked at them?"
he said. "It's because of sanctions, mainly."
Amanpour tried to push
the point, saying outside observers blamed his policies and not
sanctions. "Not everybody says so," Mugabe cut her off.
"It's not true."
He also rejected criticism
from South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu, a Nobel Peace Prize
winner for his role in the anti-apartheid struggle, who has accused
Mugabe of turning Zimbabwe into a "basket case" and repressing
his own people.
"It's not a basket
case at all," Mugabe said. He later called Tutu's comments
"devilish talk" and added: "He doesn't know what
he's talking about, the little man."
On the takeover of white-owned
farms -- a policy blamed for undermining the agriculture sector
-- Mugabe displayed the African nationalist fervor of his revolutionary
to the Zimbabweans, pure and simple," he said, then adding
that white Zimbabweans -- even those born in the country with legal
ownership of their land -- have a debt to pay.
"They occupied the
land illegally. They seized the land from our people," Mugabe
said. When Amanpour pressed him on white farmers being forced off
their land, he shot back, "Not just off their land. Our land."
"They are British
settlers," he said, later calling them "citizens by colonization,
seizing land from original people, indigenous people of the country."
Asked if would run again
in elections likely to take place in 2011, Mugabe refused to answer,
but denied he feared defeat and again rejected charges of past electoral
don't go all that smoothly all the time in many countries,"
he said, tossing a jab at the United States. "Look what happens
elsewhere. They didn't go smoothly here, look at what happened during
the first term of Bush."
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