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Mugabe Speech Offers Little Hope for Political Change in Zimbabwe - 2003-12-02


Zimbabwe's president Robert Mugabe has delivered a low-key state-of-the-country speech to parliament, lamenting the poor state of the economy, but giving no indication of political changes in the near future.

Mr. Mugabe announced no successor to Simon Muzenda, a former vice president who died recently. Political analysts say Mr. Mugabe has decided to continue with only one vice president for the time being because the ruling party is torn by an internal struggle.

Nor did Mr. Mugabe, who will be 80 in February, give any indication that he plans to leave the political stage. Opposition political leaders said Tuesday they expect Mr. Mugabe to continue in power until the next general election in 2005.

Mr. Mugabe announced several economic recovery measures aimed at mending Zimbabwe's disastrous economy. He said new laws would be introduced soon to stop people from selling gold and foreign currency illegally. He said the loss of gold and foreign currency were major contributors to Zimbabwe's financial problem.

He also said the government plans to beef up Zimbabwe's domestic electricity generation capacity to reduce the country's dependence on imports of power. Also on his economic agenda is an upgrade of the state's railway system and road network.

Private sector economists were highly critical of Mr. Mugabe's economic package, saying it would do little to address the country's mounting economic problems. They said the president did not appear to recognize the depth of Zimbabwe's crisis.

Although Mr. Mugabe has made it clear to the state-run press that he is angry at not being invited to the Commonwealth summit in Nigeria at the end of the week, he made no reference to his exclusion in his speech. However, he accused the predominantly white member countries, mainly Britain, Australia and New Zealand, of ganging up on Zimbabwe.