Zimbabwe's Mugabe threatens foreign-owned companies over Western interference

Angry over what he perceives as Western influence in Zimbabwe's politics, President Robert Mugabe said the time would come 'tit for tat' retaliation against foreign-owned companies. 

Philimon Bulawayo/Reuters
Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe addresses mourners at the funeral of retired Air Commodore Mike Karakadzai in Harare, August 25. Mugabe threatened 'tit for tat' retaliation against companies from Britain and the United States on Sunday if the Western nations persisted in pressuring his government with sanctions and what he called 'harassment.'

Zimbabwe's long-serving president on Sunday threatened to expel foreign-owned companies over what he said was the West's interference in the politics of the country he has led since 1980.

President Robert Mugabe said he wanted no "ideas from London or Washington," speaking before supporters at the funeral of a top military chief in Harare. He warned the Western powers that although his government hasn't "done anything to your companies, time will come when we will say tit for tat."

He said: "You hit me, I hit you. We have a country to run and we must be left free to run it."

Britain, the former colonial power, the European Union and the United States have refused to endorse Mugabe's landslide victory in the July 31 elections, citing evidence of vote rigging. The Western countries maintain economic restrictions on Mugabe and leaders of his ruling party.

Mugabe insists his party won "a resounding mandate" in the last election and denies allegations of voting fraud. Zimbabwe's state election panel said Mugabe won the July 31 elections with 61 percent of the presidential vote.

Mugabe, who was sworn in Thursday for another five-year term at the age of 89, said that "there will come a time when we lose our patience" with the West's pressure for democratic reforms.

"I want to assure you our attitude will not continue to be passive," Mugabe said Sunday. "We have had enough and enough is enough."

Since winning another term Mugabe has vowed to push ahead with a black empowerment program to force foreign and white-owned businesses to cede 51 percent ownership to black Zimbabweans. Some economists warn that the program will trigger another economic downturn, like that Zimbabwe suffered after Mugabe's government seized white-owned farms in 2000.

Mugabe, on the other hand, says the new economic plan to force black control of companies will create jobs and economic growth that had been hindered by what he called "a tenuous and fraught coalition with uneasy partners" in the opposition led by former Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai. Tsvangirai had favored attracting Western investment during the five-year coalition forged by regional leaders after the last disputed elections in 2008.

Mugabe says Britain has opposed black empowerment since he forced thousands of white farmers to surrender their land. Critics of the program say it disrupted Zimbabwe's agriculture-based economy, shut down industries and scared away foreign investment in mining and other businesses.

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