21 December 2008

Mugabe committed to land policy

BBC News, Sunday, 21 December 2008

Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe

Robert Mugabe vowed to continue as president of Zimbabwe

Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe says he will not allow a unity government to reverse his controversial policy of seizing white-owned land.

Mr Mugabe made the statement a day after telling supporters that he would never surrender to those trying to pressure him to step down.

Mr Mugabe and the opposition leader, Morgan Tsvangirai, agreed three months ago to form a coalition government.

But progress has stalled over should control key ministries.

Critics say the land seizure policy was a key contributor to the country's economic ruin.

Mr Mugabe addressed his party conference, attended by between 5,000 and 6,000 supporters, saying: "We don't want a unity which is retrogressive.

"The biggest issue is of land... the land has already been given to the people, it will not be returned to whites," Reuters news agency quoted him as saying.

'Political graves'

A day after telling the conference that "Zimbabwe is mine", Mr Mugabe reiterated that he would not step down - as US President George W Bush has after two terms, and as he predicted UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown will.

"They are all going to their political graves," Mr Mugabe said.

"But I will remain the president of this country."

Mr Mugabe's land policy from 2000 involved seizing land from white owners and handing it to his black supporters - but not to poor black farmers as promised.

While it is partly blamed by critics for Zimbabwe's economic ruin, Mr Mugabe instead says Western sanctions have damaged his country.

When the power-sharing deal was signed in September, there was a section covering the "Land Question", but it noted that the fast-tracked farm redistribution was "irreversible".

At the signing ceremony, Mr Mugabe stated: "Zimbabwe's land belongs to Zimbabweans."

The Movement for Democratic Change has called for an end to multiple ownership of farms, believing that much of the 11m hectares of prime farmland taken from 4,000 mainly white farmers has been given to ruling party loyalists.


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