'To hell with Europe' says furious Mugabe at funeral
A FURIOUS President Robert Mugabe told the European Union to "go to hell" yesterday during an impassioned speech at the burial of his sister Sabina in the capital Harare.
In comments that show the 86-year-old president's increasingly disturbed emotional state with the power-sharing government again on the brink of collapse, Mr Mugabe raged at the EU's refusal to lift travel sanctions and bank freezes on members of his ZANU-PF elite.
"We are still treated as if we don't own a country, as if Zimbabwe is owned by Europe," Mugabe told a crowd of dark-suited politicians and party supporters bussed in for the state funeral on the grey slopes of the National Heroes Acre.
Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, the leader of the former opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), did not attend.
Wearing dark glasses, Mr Mugabe said the EU wanted him to step down before sanctions could be lifted: "They think they can dictate … of course it's Mugabe first who must go."
One of Africa's last strongmen, the dapper former teacher and guerrilla fighter has been in power here since independence in 1980.
His disastrous land reform programme and brutal repression of his political opponents propelled Zimbabwe into its worst-ever economic and social crisis from 2000-2009.
Mugabe has insisted that the EU and the US should remove sanctions on him and more than 100 of his cronies because he agreed to form a coalition government last year with Mr Tsvangirai.
A delegation of ministers from the MDC and ZANU-PF travelled last month to Brussels to meet EU development chief Catherine Ashton and Development Commissioner Andries Pielbags and plead for the removal of the restrictive measures.
The Zimbabwean president was furious when Ms Ashton said the 27-nation bloc wanted "concrete progress" in the implementation of the coalition deal before it would "respond positively" to the request.
"To hell with them, to hell, hell, hell with them," Mr Mugabe raged. "Whoever told them that they are above the people of Zimbabwe?"
"We say we have right on our side," he said as his supporters cheered. Mr Mugabe accused the US of giving support to the "European clique," prompting the US Ambassador Charles Ray to leave before the address was finished.
At times Mugabe appeared to forget the plush white coffin lying before him, carrying the remains of Sabina Mugabe.
She died on Thursday morning in a private hospital in Harare from stroke complications.
Ms Mugabe is believed to have grabbed several white-owned farms for herself and family members during the early years of her brother's land reform programme. Her name was on the EU and US sanctions list: MDC officials had objected privately to her being declared a "national heroine."
Angry at being unable to access funds stashed abroad, ZANU-PF officials have told Mr Mugabe not to hold elections until the sanctions are lifted. Newly-rapacious politicos are now championing the takeover of foreign firms by party mobs: three Asian-owned buildings in Bulawayo were reported seized last month.
Efforts by Mr Tsvangirai to tone down recently-enacted black empowerment legislation have been largely ignored.
In his bitter speech yesterday, Mr Mugabe said Zimbabweans would "never forget" the cruelty of the white colonial regime."Their wish is for us to remain landless for ever," he said.
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