Mugabe calls opposition "treasonous" British allies

22/03/2008 - 17:18

By MacDonald Dzirutwe

HARARE (Reuters) - Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabeaccused the main opposition on Saturday of forging a"treasonous" alliance with Britain to oust him.

The 84-year-old leader is seeking re-election for anotherfive-year term in a presidential race in which he faces formerfinance minister Simba Makoni and Morgan Tsvangirai, who leadsthe main faction of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).

Mugabe, a former liberation hero in power sinceindependence in 1980, took his election campaign to the capitalHarare in the final stretch to the March 29 general election,the biggest challenge to his rule since he took office.

He told thousands of supporters in an open sports ground inthe poor township of Mbare that Britain was sponsoring the MDCin a bid to reverse the seizure of white-owned land for blacks.

"It is treasonous for the MDC to continue to help theBritish so that they have any influence here," Mugabe toldsupporters in a speech delivered mainly in local Shona.

"They (MDC) still look up to the British in this day andage. They want to rule this country, that will not happen aslong as we are still alive, those of us who fought theliberation struggle," Mugabe said, predicting the oppositionwould break apart after the March 29 poll.

Mugabe has often resorted to a strategy of attacking hisWestern foes, mainly Britain, in a bid to deflect attentionaway from an economy critics say he has left in tatters,analysts say.

The combative leader repeated threats to punish Britishcompanies that still operate in Zimbabwe for what he said wasLondon's continued meddling in the country's internal affairs.

"They have companies here and so they must take carebecause after elections we will move on them," he told cheeringsupporters.

Mugabe's ruling ZANU-PF has lost seats to the MDC in Harareand other major towns in elections since 2000, but on Saturdaythe veteran leader promised his government would ease prices ofbasic goods. He donated public buses and pledged to equipcrumbling hospitals.

Urban workers have borne the brunt of an economic crisisthat has sent inflation past 100,000 percent -- the world'shighest -- and resulted in shortages of food, fuel, water andelectricity.

Mugabe said foreign-owned companies would be compelled tocede majority stakes to local blacks, adding that businesseswere hiking prices to turn voters against his government.

"These companies are joking, they don't know us. We askthem, are you with us or you are working for someone else?"Mugabe said.

(Editing by Philippa Fletcher)

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