Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe threatened Wednesday to seize foreign-owned mining companies and businesses he accused of engaging in “dirty tricks” and wreaking economic sabotage aimed at overturning his government.
Mr. Mugabe was speaking at the burial of Brigadier General Paul Armstrong Gunda, who was killed last week when his car collided with a train in Marondera.
President Mugabe said mines will be nationalized through legislation just submitted to parliament which would require that a 51% equity stake be ceded to Zimbabweans previously disadvantaged because of their race - in effect, black nationals.
He also warned that business managers who raise prices will be arrested. Harare issued orders this week for prices of basic goods to be significantly reduced, holding manufacturers and retailers responsible for the country's 4,500% inflation rate.
Addressing an audience at Heroes Acre southwest of Harare, Mugabe told cheering mourners that mining companies were breaking the law by not remitting hard currency into national coffers. "We will seize the mines if they go wrong," he said. "Take note - we will nationalize them. We will take them all over if they continue this dirty game."
He issued much the same warning to businesses that raised prices.
"This nonsense of price escalations must come to an end," declared Mr. Mugabe, 83, who is seeking re-election in 2008. "Those who are in construction and suppliers, take note. We are following you. It's not going to be an easy game. It's going to be a rough one. We will never allow ourselves to be defeated by these British tactics."
Mr. Mugabe blamed British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who handed off to successor Gordon Brown Wednesday after a decade in power, responsible for the deterioration of bilateral relations. He said he expected Blair, tipped as a multilateral Mideast peace envoy, to "continue his tricks, dishonesty and hypocrisy" against Zimbabwe.
"We hope that those who come after him will look at Zimbabwe and past policy and try to improve that past policy. We have no enemies of our own choice," he said.
Taking a swipe at opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai, he accused the founding president of the Movement for Democratic Change of fleeing the liberation war and of traveling to London last week in search of British support to overturn him. Tsvangirai spokesman William Bango dismissed these charges as “geriatric convulsions.”
Nairobi-based analyst Brian Kagoro told reporter Blessing Zulu of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that Mr Mugabe is making a mistake in targeting companies as the country lacks the financial and industrial capacity to make full use of such resources.