Mugabe: Zimbabwe at war; our money frozen in New York

Staff Reporter

President Robert Mugabe on Sunday

PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe claimed Sunday that Zimbabwe was “still at war” and expressed frustration that “some people don’t seem to appreciate” the challenge as he tried to explain his government’s failure to address the country’s economic crisis.

The veteran leader was speaking in Harare while burying national hero Retired Brigadier-General Felix Muchemwa who was also a medical doctor.

As the administration’s financial problems continue, the finance ministry last week announced that salaries for the army and security services would be delayed by two weeks and some civil servants such as teachers and nurses will not be paid until next month.

The health sector is also in crisis with doctors refusing to treat patients on medical aid schemes, saying health insurance firms, particularly the government-run PSMAS were not honouring claims.

Mugabe, who denies accusations of incompetent economic management, blaming instead sanctions imposed the West, repeated the excuse on Sunday declaring that the country was effectively at war.

He claimed that proceeds from the country’s exports were being seized in the United States as part of Washington’s sanctions against Harare.

“Sometimes it’s not possible to export our goods at all because of certain countries,” said Mugabe

“To get assistance for international institutions like all other countries do in order to assist our production - even as we want to pay our partners who will have assisted us, our monies are frozen.

“New York says no and penalises all banks that handle Zimbabwean money. So there are always difficulties and some people don’t seem to appreciate.

“They think no, we are like any other country, free as air. We are not.”

The European Union has since lifted most of its sanctions against Zimbabwe, maintaining only the travel ban against Mugabe and his wife Grace but the United States insists Mugabe remains a threat to its foreign policy interests.

However, Washington’s ambassador to Harare last week denied charges that US sanctions imposed were responsible for Zimbabwe’s economic problems.

Ambassador Harry Thomas Jnr said, by the time the US enacted its Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act (ZIDERA) in 2001, Harare had since ruined relations with international creditors by failing to pay its debts.

Said the envoy: “The dire economic situation in Zimbabwe right now is not because of the targeted restrictions on selected government officials, as they say.

“ … before even the ZIDERA bill was passed, Zimbabwe had already ruined its credit worthiness by failing to repay the money it owes to international financial institutions.”

He added: “What the Zimbabwean government should be concerned now is to consider financial and political reforms and commit to implementing the constitution of the country because it is the Zimbabwean people’s constitution …

“(Government should also work towards) curbing corruption; the judiciary has to be independent and there is also need to reform the indigenisation policy which has deterred foreign direct investment which the country needs.”

Brigadier-General Felix Muchemwa's coffin at the Heroes' Acre on Sunday

Meanwhile Mugabe also hit out at doctors who are now demanding cash upfront from patients on health insurance schemes.

“We read of a standoff between doctors and medical insurers,” he said.

“We never cease to wonder what has become of the Hippocratic Oath that demands that care must nevertheless to be given to the sick even where you are being paid less.

“Have our doctors lost their values that used to define them? Values that used to define them to life and its sustenance that life is dear; do not allow people to die. Do all you can to save life.

“True, we expect everyone, doctors included, to be rewarded evenly for work done but is it not important for us all in the medical field to appreciate the social context within which we execute our duties.”

Mugabe challenged doctors to “put the lives of the people first” and learn from the example of the late Brigadier-General Muchemwa and other liberation war fighters whose sacrifices helped bring freedom in 1980.

“If we had not put the interests of our people first, the fact that our people were being suppressed, oppressed, subjected to a racial system, which was brutal and that we needed to do all we could to redeem them, we would not have embarked on a liberation struggle.

“It was our people, the interests of our people, the lives of our people, their right. Just putting the people first,” he said.


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Denis Gwenzi
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