Mugabe threatens British firms
Robert Mugabe has threatened to seize British businesses in retaliation for Western economic sanctions targeting him and his supporters over alleged human rights abuses in Zimbabwe.
Mugabe made special mention on Wednesday of UK-controlled banks and firms, saying British interests controlled 400 businesses in the former British colony.
"It is time now to take action and to start looking at these companies we must take over," Mugabe told a rally in Harare at the start of a campaign to gather two million signatures for a national petition to take over the businesses.
He accused Barclays and the Standard Chartered banks of taking money out of Zimbabwe's economy and using it to support a British banking freeze against Zimbabwean leaders.
He said British firms and European and American interests also took out profits on mining and other ventures. "We say no to that," Mugabe said. He also demanded executives of foreign-owned companies condemn the sanctions placed by their governments.
Trucks and buses carrying Mugabe supporters arrived earlier at a field on the edge of the city centre. The supporters sang slogans and raised Mugabe's trademark clenched-fist salute. The former opposition party of prime minister Morgan Tsvangirai, in a shaky coalition with Mugabe, boycotted the gathering.
Mr Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change said the measures against Mugabe and his ZANU-PF party resulted from its record of violence, intimidation and vote-rigging.
Its statement said Mr Tsvangirai distanced himself from the "unpopular and bloodthirsty" party.
Mugabe insists Western sanctions have destroyed Zimbabwe's economy, but critics and economists blame his violent land distribution programme for crippling the country's agriculture industry since 2000.
The sanctions include visa bans and asset freezes on Mugabe and his party leaders. Mugabe has been in power since Zimbabwe's independence in 1980.