News / Africa

Zimbabwe's Mugabe Speaks Out on Diamond Sales



Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe says windfall revenues from recently approved diamond sales must benefit the whole country and not just a few individuals.  Speaking at the funeral of his sister, he also lashed out at Western governments for refusing to lift sanctions against senior officials.

President Mugabe urged what he called greedy people to curb their drive for self-enrichment and ensure that revenues from an upcoming sale of Zimbabwean diamonds benefit the entire country.

The Zimbabwean leader was speaking to several-thousand mourners at the funeral of his younger sister, Sabina, who died last week after a lengthy illness.

The diamond control body, the Kimberley Process, recently approved the sale of some rough diamonds from fields in eastern Zimbabwe.

Human-rights groups opposed the sale saying members of the military and Mr. Mugabe's ZANU-PF party had committed human rights abuses there and were smuggling some of the diamonds for their personal gain.

The Zimbabwean government says it has mined nearly $175 million worth of the precious stones in the past seven years.  It hopes their sale will boost an 18-month-old economic turn-around.

Mr. Mugabe criticized Western governments for failing to support the recovery and not ending sanctions against senior ZANU-PF leaders.

"Sanctions must go.  They are hurting our people, regardless of political affiliation," he said.  "We just had our inclusive delegation paying a visit to Europe to seek the removal of sanctions, and the delegation came back empty handed."

Western governments 10 years ago imposed travel, banking and business bans on more than 100 senior Zimbabwean leaders and dozens of state-owned companies because of human-rights abuses.

Mr. Mugabe says they are an attempt by former colonial powers to control his country.

"They [Western governments] think they can then dictate, 'Do a, b and c, remove so and so,' and of course it is Mugabe first who must go, according to them, and then 'we will relate with you,'" he said.  "To hell with them."

The president's campaign against the sanctions is supported by former opposition leader and now Prime Minster Morgan Tsvangirai who joined Mr. Mugabe in a power sharing government last year.

The unity government succeeded in reversing years of hyper-inflation and economic decline, but has not been able to attract the foreign investment needed to boost employment and government revenues.

Mr. Mugabe's supporters blame Western imperialism, but his critics say policies such as a proposal to require large companies to transfer 51 percent ownership to black Zimbabweans discourage new foreign investment.

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