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On Zimbabwe Independence Day, Mugabe Diatribe, Public Apathy

In an Independence Day address Friday to thousands gathered in a Harare stadium, President Robert Mugabe railed against British authorities whom he accused of "trying to steal our country through their puppets,” an allusion to his political opposition.

Referring to to colonization by British mining magnate Cecil Rhodes in 1889 under a British government charter, the establishment of colonial Rhodesia and the liberation struggle leading to the creation of the state of Zimbabwe on April 18, 1980, President Mugabe told the crowd in Gwanzura Stadium: “We are the ones who brought democracy in this country. we removed the subjugation."

He reiterated that he would not let Britain re-colonize Zimbabwe, charging that the opposition Movement for Democratic Change is serving British aims.

The opposition MDC formation led by Morgan Tsvangirai rejected the charge, saying Mr. Mugabe is bitter that he was rejected by Zimbabweans in the recent presidential election – adding that British Prime Minister Gordon Brown did not get a vote.

The MDC says Tsvangirai received a majority of votes in the March 29 ballot, making him the Zimbabwean president elect. Mr. Mugabe's ruling ZANU-PF party has said a runoff will be needed - but the official first-round results have yet to be released.

In Bulawayo, Zimbabwe's second largest city, Independence Day passed without much fanfare. Many residents remained indoors or continued their daily struggle for survival and celebrations were attended mainly by uniformed forces and school children. as correspondent Netsai Mlilo of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe reported.

A Harare resident named Luckmore said he saw nothing to celebrate in the current post-election climate of intimidation and harassment by police and troops.

A Bulawayo resident named Chris said people in his neighborhod are more focused on bread and butter issues given the virtual collapse of the economy and hyperinflation which has officially hit 165,000%.

More reports from VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe...