Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe on Thursday blasted Western leaders who have been calling for him to step down or be removed from office, saying that the cholera epidemic which sparked those calls had been brought under control.
Correspondent Thomas Chiripasi of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe reported from Harare that that Mr. Mugabe accused the Western powers, led by Britain and the United States, of trying to recolonize Zimbabwe using the cholera outbreak as a pretext.
"So now that there is no cholera; there is no cause for war any more," Mr. Mugabe declared at the funeral of a senior official of his ZANU-PF party, political commissar Elliot Manyika, who died on Saturday of injuries sustained in an automobile crash near Bulawayo.
But as Mr. Mugabe was insisting that the epidemic under control, South African officials were classifying the the northern region bordering Zimbabwe as a disaster area. Limpopo provincial government spokesman Mogale Nchabeleng said all Vhembe district was affected. That district includes Messina, a town where Zimbabweans have flocked seeking treatment.
Inside Zimbabwe, meanwhile, the official death toll from cholera increased to 783, the World Health Organization said.
Earlier this week, Zimbabwean prime minister-designate Morgan Tsvangirai, founder of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change, told reporter Blessing Zulu of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that Mr. Mugabe is in denial over the spreading epidemic.