HARARE Aug 17 Zimbabwean President Robert
Mugabe on Sunday urged southern Africa to reduce its dependence
on foreign aid and to make better use of its natural resources
such as minerals and land.
Mugabe, Africa's oldest leader and one of its
longest-serving, was speaking at the opening of a two-day summit
of the 15-member Southern African Development Community (SADC)
in Zimbabwe's Victoria Falls tourist resort.
"Our continued over-reliance on the goodwill of our
co-operation partners compromises our ownership of SADC," he
told the meeting.
"Our region has abundant resources which instead of being
sold in raw form at very low prices must be exploited ... to add
value to the products which we export," he said.
Mugabe, 90, was most recently re-elected over a year ago. He
has consistently denied charges by the main opposition Movement
for Democratic Change (MDC) that his ZANU-PF party has used
violence and vote-rigging to stay in power since 2000.
SADC has been bogged down in mediating these electoral
disputes in Zimbabwe for the last decade.
Days before the summit, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty
International and Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human rights said SADC's
credibility was at stake if the bloc did not address human
rights violations among its members, including arrests of
political activists and journalists.
The groups cited Angola, Malawi, Swaziland and Zambia as
having committed human rights violations. Mugabe did not address
the allegations in his speech.
Critics say Mugabe's regional standing has been undermined
by a long-running economic crisis in Zimbabwe, which they partly
blame on his seizures and redistribution of white-owned
commercial farms to landless people among the black population.
(Editing by Tiisetso Motsoeneng and Raissa Kasolowsky)