HARARE – A bellicose President Robert Mugabe yesterday appeared determined to scuttle his broke government’s tentative re-engagement efforts with Western powers, saying bizarrely that Zimbabweans would rather suffer than accept conditional assistance from the international community.
The remarks flew in the face of Mugabe’s own recent statements that he wanted better relations with the West, as well as the untiring and laudable work in that regard of pragmatic Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa and the hard-working governor of the Reserve Bank, John Mangudya.
Mugabe told mourners at the burial of former Health minister, Felix Muchemwa, at the National Heroes Acre that he would not accept Western aid that came with strings attached — utterances that observers said were ill-advised and could scuttle ongoing re-engagement negotiations with the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
“Some say your policies are blocking the British and Americans who would want to pour lots of funds if we do not have our indigenisation and empowerment laws.
“Nonsense! Let’s suffer if we are going to suffer because we have been denied assistance by outsiders demanding that they should do what they want in our country. We say no.
“Our land which we have died for and suffered for is greater, much greater than your resources. Your resources will come and go, my land will always be there, and it shall always be Zimbabwe.
“We shall always have Zimbabwe and the land shall always be in the hands of the sons and daughters of Zimbabwe,” Mugabe thundered.
In his re-engagement efforts with multilateral institutions, Chinamasa has reached the stage where the IMF is now supposed to clear the country’s accumulated debt amounting to $1,7 billion.
But Mugabe will seemingly have none of this, saying yesterday that he and his ruling Zanu PF would continue to fight the West.
“So, today our revolution must continue. We have got to be united behind the party that defends what we fought for, the party that tells us that the land on which we now till, where our schools are built, was fought for, suffered for, and died for,” he said.
Mugabe has long been treated as a pariah in the West, and is widely blamed by critics for turning Zimbabwe from once being regarded as the bread basket of southern Africa into a poverty-ridden basket case, through mismanagement and corruption.
On his part, he has accused the West of ruining the country’s economy through its targeted sanctions, even as evidence on the ground repudiates these politically expedient claims.
The increasingly frail nonagenarian also took a dig at the country’s health personnel yesterday for being “selfish”.
He spoke as doctors were vowing that they would no longer accept patients with medical insurance from July 1, due to insurers owing them $220 million.
“Today, when we read about the standoff between doctors and medical insurers we never cease to wonder what has become of these fields of care. Have they lost their values that used to define them to life and its sustenance?
“True, we expect everyone, doctors included, to be rewarded evenly for work done. But is it not important for us all in the medical field to appreciate the social context within which we execute our duties?
“Our country is going through a temporary phase of challenges, most traceable to hostile sanctions imposed on us by the West.
“But in the meantime, we need to serve our people, often for modest returns. Government is aware of your cries, and is doing its utmost to address them,” Mugabe said.