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Zimbabwe Info Minister Blasts Mugabe Critics - 2003-01-19

Zimbabwe's information minister says those people talking about President Robert Mugabe's early retirement are guilty of treason and coup plotting.

The government-controlled Sunday Mail newspaper reports Minister Moyo is accusing the opposition Movement for Democratic Change and some civil servants of spreading lies about President Mugabe.

He said those who were talking about any proposed plan for the embattled president's retirement were treading on dangerous waters. He said they were talking treason and were plotting a coup through the media.

Opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai said last week he had discussions last month with an intermediary who told him that some leaders in the ruling party understood Mr. Mugabe should retire.

Mr. Mugabe strenuously denied any plan for his retirement.

Mr. Moyo said in the Sunday Mail that if there is anyone who has hatched a plot to force the president to step down, they should face the full wrath of the law.

Mr. Moyo said the debate on Mugabe's future is tantamount to plotting a coup in the glare of the media.

South Africa sent a diplomatic protest to Zimbabwe over Mr. Moyo's remarks last week that South Africans were recklessly uncouth and barbaric. He also criticized South African President Thabo Mbeki.

According to a South African government spokesman, Zimbabwe's Foreign Ministry responded to the diplomatic protest by saying Mr. Moyo's remarks were made in his personal capacity, and did not reflect the Zimbabwe government's position.

A diplomat, whose country is neutral toward Zimbabwe, said he and others believe Mr. Mugabe would be forced to reprimand Mr. Moyo. He said offending South Africa, which had been loyal to the government in the face of international criticism, was serious.

A political observer, who asked not to be named, said that if Mr. Mugabe does not act against his information minister, it would undermine Zimbabwe's relations with South Africa. He said Zimbabwe needed South Africa's mediation and support on regional and international platforms, as never before.