US admits plan to bring down Mugabe
Posted: Thursday, August 22, 2002
Chris McGreal in Johannesburg
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Thursday August 22, 2002
The Guardian UK
The United States government has said it wants to see President Robert Mugabe removed from power and that it is working with the Zimbabwean opposition to bring about a change of administration.
As scores of white farmers went into hiding to escape a round-up by Zimbabwean police, a senior Bush administration official called Mr Mugabe's rule "illegitimate and irrational" and said that his re-election as president in March was won through fraud.
Walter Kansteiner, the assistant secretary of state for African affairs, went on to blame Mr Mugabe's policies for contributing to the threat of famine in Zimbabwe.
"We do not see President Mugabe as the democratically legitimate leader of the country," he said. "The political status quo is unacceptable because the elections were fraudulent. So we're working with others, other countries in the region as well as throughout the world, on how we can in fact, together, encourage the body politic of Zimbabwe to in fact go forward and correct that situation."
Mr Kansteiner said the US was working with trade unions, pro-democracy groups and human rights organisations to bring about change. He did not say how he believed Mr Mugabe could be brought down, but dismissed the possibility of a trade embargo, calling it "a blunt instrument" that would hurt ordinary Zimbabweans.
Mr Mugabe is likely to seize on Mr Kansteiner's statement to reinforce his contention that his opponents are stooges for western neo-colonialism.
Shortly after the US official's remarks, a senior Zimbabwean foreign affairs official told Reuters: "The legitimacy of our political system or our president is not dependent on America, Britain or any other country, but on Zimbabweans.
"The bullying tactics that America and Britain are using against us are meant to frustrate our quest for social and economic justice, to stop our programme to redistribute some of the very large tracts of land held by whites here to the indigenous black people."
The US attack on Mr Mugabe came after police began arresting white farmers for defying an August 9 deadline to vacate their land and homes. Initially, more than half of the 2,900 farmers had refused to obey, but after police began making arrests, many packed up and went.
So far, 215 commercial farmers have been arrested on a charge that carries a two-year prison sentence. Many have been released on bail, sometimes on condition that they leave their farms within days.
One of those detained has been charged with attempted murder after allegedly driving his vehicle at four policemen.
Police spokesman Sergeant Lovemore Sibanda said that scores more had gone into hiding.
"The farmers we are looking for are those who vacated their farms, leaving behind their wives and children. Others left the doors of their farmhouses locked, with all the property inside, hoping to return later," he said.
The government has appealed to poor black people to move on to the expropriated land immediately in an attempt to help address the country's dire food shortages.
Harare blames drought for a massive shortfall in this year's harvest. But Andrew Natsios, the head of the US Agency for International Development, says Mr Mugabe's policies have contributed to the threat of famine. "It is madness to arrest commercial farmers in the middle of a drought when they could grow food to save people from starvation," he said.
Mr Natsios accused the Zimbabwean government of using the expropriated farms to reward politicians loyal to Mr Mugabe, and military officers, instead of giving them to the poor and landless.
About six million people, half of Zimbabwe's population, are likely to be in need of food aid within weeks, according to the UN. But only a fraction of the 1.5m tonnes of food needed to avert famine has arrived.
Nice to know where the Bush is coming from but sorry Bush we do not see you as the democratically elected leader of the US.
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