President Robert Mugabe, speaking at the Heroes Acre burial of a senior military official Wednesday, accused Britain of trying to foment a military coup and vowed to come down heavily on businesses that resist Harare’s crackdown on prices.
Mr. Mugabe said Britain tried to take advantage of the economic crisis to stage a coup, but that officers declined to take the alleged British “bait,” as he put it.
He also warned businesses against cutting back on production. saying, "Those who are not bringing goods to the market thinking there will be gnashing of teeth because there will be shortages, it's not our teeth that will be gnashing, but theirs."
He warned that businesses that halt production in response to price cuts will be taken over by the state. Mr Mugabe acknowledged, however, that some individuals had been taking advantage of the campaign to cut prices to defraud businesses.
Departing from the prepared text of his speech and picking up in the indigenous Shona language, Mr. Mugabe took shots at Roman Catholic Archbishop Pius Ncube of Bulawawo, who has been accused of committing adultery with the wife of a Bulawayo man who is now seeking Z$20 billion (US$125,000) in damages from the prelate.
Playing to his ruling party audience, Mr. Mugabe said he would pray for Ncube when he went to church so that the bishop could “repent and return to morality.”
Mr Mugabe, who is Catholic, sparked controversy in 1995 when it became known that he had fathered two children with an aide whom he later married in secret.
Political analyst Sydney Masamvu of the International Crisis Group told reporter Blessing Zulu of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that Mr. Mugabe’s attack on Britain was a diversionary tactic, predicting more such attacks despite the new U.K. leadership.