Demands over media ‘nonsense’ – Mugabe

bob_loughing.jpgPresident Robert Mugabe has dismissed as 'nonsense' Western demands that he free up Zimbabwe's media in order to get sanctions lifted. In an interview with Zimbabwean television aired late yesterday, Mr Mugabe also denied foreign media reports that his family recently bought a luxury home in Hong Kong, and criticised Britain for plans to help some

Mr Mugabe was asked if his new government would meet benchmarks, such
as media freedom, set by Western powers including the EU and the US as
a condition for the removal of travel and financial sanctions imposed
on his Zanu PF party. That is nonsense,' he replied. Mr Mugabe’s
government has tough media laws under which dozens of journalists have
been arrested or deported over the last eight years, and foreign
journalists are banned from basing their operations in the country.
President Mugabe said his Western opponents must unconditionally lift
sanctions, which he sees as unfair, illegal and racist economic
penalties against his party. Western governments have taken a cautious
approach to Zimbabwe’s new power-sharing government in which Morgan
Tsvangirai, Mugabe’s longstanding opponent, has taken the post of prime
minister. They are still waiting to see if the new government will
bring about real change in a country suffering from hyperinflation and
economic breakdown.

Mr Mugabe, who turned 85 last week and will officially celebrate his
birthday at a huge rally tomorrow, said his government wants friendly
relations with all nations and was still assessing new US President
Barack Obama’s policies. ‘We are open. We want to discuss. We have
never closed our doors,’ he said. Mr Mugabe expressed surprise at this
week’s announcement by former colonial power Britain that it would
offer help to hundreds of its elderly nationals in Zimbabwe to return
home. He said they were safe in Zimbabwe, where more than 300 British
companies were still freely operating. ‘They are free here. They are
quite comfortable. It’s queer, strange thinking by the British. We
don’t understand,’ he said. The British government said on Monday that
some elderly British citizens in Zimbabwe were facing severe
difficulties getting access to food, medicines and care, and it would
offer them help to resettle. Commenting on Western media reports that
he bought a $5m home in Hong Kong where his daughter is a university
student, Mr Mugabe said: ‘Of course not. There is a property in which
our girl and a friend are staying, but we pay rent. What do I do with a
house in Hong Kong?



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