Verbal hostilities continued Tuesday between Zimbabwe and the United States over the U.S. initiative launched this week seeking to mobilize African and other states to isolate President Robert Mugabe, demanding that he step down over the country's advanced collapse and what Washington says is his obstruction of the political power-sharing process.
Mr. Mugabe has defiantly dismissed calls for him to leave office. Speaking to mourners on Tuesday at the National Heroes Acre burial of Gordon Sibanda, a retired army major, the president called the demands for him to step down irrelevant and “stupid.”
He said the U.S. drive for his resignation amounted to the “the last kicks of dying horse,” this a reference to the impending departure next month of U.S. President George Bush upon which president-elect Barack Obama will assume the highest U.S. office.
President Mugabe's supporters at the liberation shrine poured scorn on Britain and the United States brandishing placards reading, "Warmongers, African leaders are not foolish" and "Respect Zimbabwe's right to self-determination.”
Washington continued its offensive as U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Monday reiterated the U.S. position that Washington no longer sees a national unity government under Mr. Mugabe as possible or acceptable.
Rice said she will pursue talks with other nations aimed at toughening and expanding U.S., European and other sanctions aimed at Mr. Mugabe, his ZANU-PF party and inner circle, and other individuals and institutions seen as critical to propping up his administration.
Switzerland meanwhile said it was freezing the bank accounts of 11 Mugabe political allies as of Tuesday, blocking access to to two accounts holding some US$550,000.
Reporter Blessing Zulu of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe sought comment from ZANU-PF Chief Parliamentary Whip Joram Gumbo, who accused Washington of interfering with the business of a sovereign state.
George Sibotshiwe, spokesman for Movement for Democratic Change founder and prime minister designate Morgan Tsvangirai, said the MDC cannot comment on Washington’s position and would continue to seek power-sharing concessions from Mr. Mugabe while demanding the release of more than two score abduction opposition activists.
For perspective reporter Zulu turned to political analyst Glen Mpani in Cape Town, South Africa, who said Washington’s position puts the MDC in an awkward position given the Mugabe administration's longstanding charge that the MDC is a Western pawn.