- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 14, 2002

HARARE, Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe threatened retribution against the country's white population yesterday, suggesting they are working with Britain, the former colonial power, to sabotage his government.
Mr. Mugabe accused the British of leading an international campaign to isolate Zimbabwe and recruit support for his opponents inside the country.
"The more they work against us, the more they express hostility against us, the more negative we shall become to their kith and kin here," Mr. Mugabe said at the opening of his ruling Zimbabwe Africa National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) party's annual convention.
The embattled president, however, did not refer to the nation's deepening economic crisis and a looming famine largely blamed on his party's policies.
In an 80-minute address, Mr. Mugabe railed against whites, Britain and its Western allies, whom he accused of "nurturing enemies among us" by criticizing his party and supporting the main opposition party, Movement for Democratic Change.
"We are the type of people who, if you step on our foot, we fight back," he said.
Mr. Mugabe, 78, wore a baseball cap bearing the slogan "Chave Chimurenga," meaning "It is now war" in the local Shona language.
The white population in Zimbabwe stands at about 30,000, less than 1 percent of the total.
More than double that number lived in the southern African country 2 years ago. Ruling-party militants then began a campaign to seize white-owned farms, sparking political and economic unrest.
Most whites are the descendants of colonial-era British and South African settlers.
The government has repeatedly accused Western countries and local whites of funding the main opposition that narrowly lost presidential elections in March.
"They are the enemies of the people and our government. We must be on our guard. Our survival is an ongoing war," Mr. Mugabe told about 2,000 ruling-party loyalists at the convention in the provincial town of Chinhoyi, 70 miles northwest of Harare.
In his one reference to the country's economic woes, he said gasoline shortages that have left most of Zimbabwe's stations dry would be discussed in a closed session by delegates.
Delegates cheered and danced as Mr. Mugabe walked to the podium, but their response to his address was uncharacteristically muted compared with that of previous years.
Some laughed when Philip Chiyangwa, a ruling-party lawmaker for Chinhoyi, welcomed them to "Zimbabwe's breadbasket."
Once known as southern Africa's breadbasket, Zimbabwe now faces acute food shortages. The World Food Program says at least 6.7 million Zimbabweans, more than half the population, will need emergency food aid in coming months to avert mass starvation.
Mr. Mugabe says the food crisis is the result of a drought earlier this year, while most analysts blame political violence and disruptions in the agriculture-based economy during the government's program to confiscate thousands of white-owned commercial farms that now lie virtually idle.
Mr. Mugabe on Thursday promised to enforce a widely abused government price freeze on most goods to slow record inflation, officially estimated at 144 percent but seen to be much higher.

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