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Monday, August 08, 2005

BBC NEWS | Africa | Mugabe rules out opposition talks

BBC NEWS | Africa | Mugabe rules out opposition talks Mugabe rules out opposition talks
Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe has ruled out holding talks with the main opposition party despite international pressure to do so.

South Africa's President Thabo Mbeki has reportedly offered to help Zimbabwe repay some of its foreign debts on condition that talks are held.

Mr Mugabe said he would rather talk with the UK than the opposition MDC.

Zimbabwe is in an economic crisis, with shortages of fuel, food and foreign currency and high unemployment.


"Today we tell all those calling for such ill-conceived talks to please stop their misdirected efforts," Mr Mugabe said in a speech in the capital, Harare, to remember those who died in Zimbabwe's 1970s war of independence on Heroes Day.

"The man who needs to be spoken to in order to see reason resides at No 10 Downing Street [UK Prime Minister Tony Blair's residence]... That's the man to speak to," he said.

Only someone with his head firmly buried in the sand would not understand why there are calls for dialogue
MDC spokesman Paul Themba Nyathi
"Those in Harvest House, Harare, [headquarters of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC)] are no more than his stooges and puppets. We would rather speak to the principal who manipulates the puppets."

Mr Mugabe has blamed Zimbabwe's problems on a UK-led Western plot designed to oust him because of his seizure of white-owned land.

His critics say the land reform programme has ruined what used to be one of Africa's most productive economies.

"Only someone with his head firmly buried in the sand would not understand why there are calls for dialogue," said MDC spokesman Paul Themba Nyathi.

Separately, South African and Zimbabwean officials have started talks over a possible loan - Zimbabwe needs $300m or it faces expulsion from the IMF.

Mr Mbeki reportedly wants to use the loan to get Zimbabwe's rival politicians to talk to each other and possibly form a government of national unity to resolve the country's economic and political problems.

Food aid delayed

In his Heroes Day speech, Mr Mugabe also justified the demolition of thousands of homes, which the government says were built without planning permission.

"Let those loud hypocrites who speak in defence of slums that brutalise our people tell us what they have done for our people in the area of housing," he said.

A recent United Nations report said 700,000 Zimbabweans had been left homeless by Operation Drive Out Rubbish.

Meanwhile, a consignment of 37 tonnes of food aid sent by South African church groups to Zimbabwe is being held up at the border because Zimbabwe officials want proof that it is not genetically modified.

"We just wanted to get the food there as fast as possible. But we are appealing to everyone to speed up the process so that the food can arrive in Zimbabwe in the next couple of days," said South Africa Council of Churches spokesman Ron Steel.

After visiting Zimbabwe, the SACC said those left homeless were living in "shocking conditions".

Mr Mugabe says new houses will be built for those made homeless.

Following a failed harvest, Zimbabwe is suffering food shortages.

It has been short of foreign currency for imports such as fuel for several years.
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