HARARE (Reuters) - Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe lashed out at Western powers on Sunday over sanctions imposed on his ZANU-PF party, saying the European Union and United States were simply bent on driving him out of power.
Addressing thousands of people at the burial of his sister Sabina, Mugabe accused his Western opponents of not recognizing Zimbabwe as an independent state of native black citizens with rights over its land and other natural economic resources.
Brussels and Washington slapped financial sanctions on state firms and travel restrictions on Mugabe and dozens of his associates nearly 10 years ago after a violent re-election campaign and at the start of sometimes violent seizures of white-owned commercial farms for black resettlement.
On Sunday, he unleashed another tirade against his critics, saying they were using sanctions as part of a plot to impose their political will on the southern African nation.
“We say to hell, to hell, hell with them,” he said angrily. “Sanctions must go, and they must go. They are hurting our people regardless of political affiliation.”
“We are still being treated as if we don’t own this country. They want to tell us, do A, B and C of that, remove so-and-so and they are now saying Mugabe must go first,” he said. “Whoever told them that their will is above that of the people of Zimbabwe?”
Mugabe, whom many blame for ruining one of Africa’s most promising economies, said his ZANU-PF party was committed to a black empowerment programme designed to increase black ownership across all sectors of the economy.
“This is the fight we must fight in an all-Zimbabwe way,” he said.
The coalition government is deeply divided over Mugabe’s plans to force foreign-owned firms, including mines and banks, to transfer a 51-percent stake to black Zimbabweans.
Mugabe said newfound diamond wealth must benefit the nation not just individuals and called on what he called greedy people to curb their drive for self-enrichment.
It was not clear whether he was referring to private companies or some of his ZANU-PF associates suspected to be smuggling diamonds out of the country.
Mugabe, 86, was forced into a power-sharing pact with his rival, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, more than a year ago after a crisis over a 2008 national election that local and foreign observers say was marred by violence and vote-rigging.
Although the unity government has stabilized the economy and Zimbabwe registered its first growth in a decade last year, analysts say it is struggling to attract foreign aid and investment because of Mugabe’s policies.
Mugabe, who has ruled Zimbabwe since independence from Britain in 1980, says his policies are meant to correct colonial injustices.
Editing by Ed Cropley and Sonya Hepinstall