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Mugabe Makes First Speech Since Election


From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.



And I'm Michele Norris.

Zimbabwe, today, marked its 28th Anniversary of independence from Britain. But many people there see little to celebrate. Inflation is running at 160,000 percent. And despite calls from many world leaders, the government still hasn't released results of its presidential election held three weeks ago.

NPR's Ofeibea Quist-Arcton is in the capital Harare, and she reports, President Robert Mugabe remains defiant.

(Soundbite of crowd cheering)

OFEIBEA QUIST-ARCTON: To loud and enthusiastic cheers from the stands, President Robert Mugabe's convoy swept into Gwanzura Stadium. After reviewing the troops, Mugabe told the crowd of thousands that Britain and his political opponents were plotting regime change to take Zimbabwe back to colonial rule.


President ROBERT MUGABE (Zimbabwe): We need to maintain utmost vigilance in the face of vicious British machinations and the machination of our other detractors who are allies of British.

QUIST-ARCTON: In his speech filled with contempt, Mugabe derided the Opposition Movement for Democratic Change. Denouncing it as a tool Britain was using, to distribute money. He said Zimbabweans were being bought and sold by the British, like livestock.

Pres. MUGABE: Whereas yesterday they relied on brute force to subjugate our people and plunder our resources, today they have perfected their tactics to more subtle forms.

QUIST-ARCTON: Opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai claims he won last month's presidential vote. And he's accused Mugabe of clinging to power by refusing to publish the election results. Backed by human rights groups, Tsvangirai says Mugabe's supporters are using violence to intimidate Zimbabweans. The opposition claims the government is militarizing the political battle.

Mr. MORGAN TSVANGIRAI (President, Movement for Democratic Change): Robert Mugabe lost an election. Robert Mugabe rolls out the military against innocent civilians. Robert Mugabe unleashes brutalization against the people for daring to vote against. I think that is unforgivable.

QUIST-ARCTON: Coincidentally, a cargo of Chinese military hardware, destined for Zimbabwe, arrived this week at South Africa's main port. Dock workers reportedly are refusing to unload the vessel in protest over the election standoff in Zimbabwe. The move could put pressure on South Africa's President Thabo Mbeki who has been criticized for adopting a policy of quiet diplomacy with Mugabe.

Both President Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice have added their voices to the growing chorus of international concern.

Secretary CONDOLEEZZA RICE (U.S. Secretary of State): The longer they hold the results of election, the more suspicion grows that something's being plotted and planned by the ruling party. But it's time for Africa to step up. Where is the concern from the African union and from Zimbabwe's neighbors about what is going on in Zimbabwe?

QUIST-ARCTON: The British prime minister Gordon Brown used even stronger language, warning Robert Mugabe against a stolen election. But Zimbabwe's ambassador to the United Nations, Boniface Chidyausiku, said there wasn't all this fuss when votes were being counted in the U.S. election in 2000.

Ambassador BONIFACE CHIDYAUSIKU (United Nations, Zimbabwe): When there were disputes in Florida, it took them six weeks. I didn't see anyone(ph) raising issue with Washington. And they recounted and recounted votes in Florida until the American Supreme Court decided that George Bush was the winner.

(Soundbite of crowd cheering)

QUIST-ARCTON: So, 28 years after he lead his country to liberation from white minority rule, raising his clenched fist to the waving crowds, Robert Mugabe again thumbed his nose at his critics, saying Zimbabwe's struggle continued against the imperialists.

(Soundbite of crowd cheering)

Ofeibea Quist-Arcton, NPR News, Harare. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.