Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe said Thursday that the country did not need a rescue plan, seemingly dashing cold water on efforts by South Africa and others to promote a United Nations-brokered deal to organize an international economic bailout in return for Mr. Mugabe's retirement.
Mugabe, speaking at the funeral of Tichaona Jokonya, the former information minister who died on Saturday, vowed to "fight to the death” anyone who attempted to grab the country’s land, “to occupy, to sell or pawn it.”
The president blamed the country’s economic crisis on western sanctions. He warned British Prime Minister Tony Blair, often a target for his rhetoric, to quote “keep his stealthy hands off Zimbabwe.”
Beyond Mr. Mugabe's usual defiant anti-Western rhetoric, his words seemed to signal he would not be interested in discussing a brokered solution to the crisis in Zimbabwe involving a financial lifeline for the economy in exchange for his early retirement.
Mr. Mugabe was scheduled to meet with United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan on the sidelines of the African Union summit opening Saturday in the Gambia. They were to discuss Annan’s long-awaited trip to Harare, but South African President Thabo Mbeki may join the talks and push for a widened UN role in the crisis.
Political analysts said the president’s declaration that Zimbabwe did not need rescuing dashed cold water on speculation as to a United Nations diplomatic initiative.
UN chief Annan, backed by Mbeki and Blair, is on record as ready to help resolve the Zimbabwean crisis. Mr. Mbeki has floated a U.N.-brokered economic rescue package for Zimbabwe in return for broad political and economic reforms and Mr. Mugabe's early retirement. But Harare says an exit by Mr. Mugabe is not on the table.
Mr. Mugabe wants Europe and the United States to lift targeted sanctions imposed on him and his inner circle of political allies and business associates. International Crisis Group analyst Sydney Masamvu said Mr. Mugabe’s veiled attack on the UN initiative may on the other hand be posturing ahead of the summit in the Gambia.
For another view, Blessing Zulu of VOA’s Studio 7 for Zimbabwe turned to senior researcher Chris Maroleng of the Institute of Security Studies in Pretoria.