HARARE, Zimbabwe (AP) — Zimbabwe’s longtime President Robert Mugabe said Tuesday his party won “a resounding mandate” from voters to complete a sweeping black empowerment program to take over foreign and white-owned assets.
Mugabe said the program in Zimbabwe, widely criticized by Western countries, will be “pursued to its successful conclusion.”
Outgoing Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, 61, is challenging the results of the July 31 election and alleges widespread vote rigging that gave Mugabe, 89, and his ZANU-PF party a commanding victory.
Addressing military parades on the annual Defense Forces holiday, Mugabe said voters ended an unwieldy coalition with Tsvangirai’s opposition that was formed after the last violent and disputed elections in 2008.
Mugabe said the vote showed confidence in his party and its drive for “total economic emancipation” for prosperity and jobs.
“I extend my hearty congratulations to all of you for showing our foreign detractors our destiny lies in our hands,” Mugabe said, speaking at the main sports stadium in Harare where the parades and parachuting displays, gymnastics and a soccer match between the uniformed services of Zimbabwe and regional ally Tanzania were held.
In his first public appearance since the election on the Heroes’ Day holiday Monday, honoring guerrillas in the war the led to independence in 1980, Mugabe described his rivals as an enemy he disposed of in the election “like garbage.”
On Tuesday he called them “some misguided fellow countrymen” who received backing from hostile Western nations and followed a regime-change agenda to oust him.
Tsvangirai’s party had called for reforms to the military and police it has blamed for state orchestrated violence in the past.
“What they call security sector reform is when the enemy’s aim is to dilute the efficiency of the Zimbabwe Defense Forces,” Mugabe said. “We appeal to all Zimbabweans to resist the enemy’s strategies and renewed advances by our erstwhile colonizers.”
Britain, the former colonial power, and the United States have questioned whether the results of the July 31 poll represent a free and fair vote.
Mugabe, who for the first time this year inspected the parades from an open military jeep instead of walking through the ranks, said Britain has opposed black empowerment since 2000 when thousands of white farmers were forced to surrender their land.
Critics of the program say it disrupted Zimbabwe’s agriculture-based economy, shut down industries and scared away foreign investment in mining and other businesses where owners were required to yield 51 percent control to blacks.
Mugabe, however, said empowerment succeeded in creating jobs and economic growth in other African countries in the post-colonial era where it had not drawn the same condemnation as in Zimbabwe.
In its election manifesto, Mugabe’s party vowed to take control of the last 1,138 foreign and white-owned businesses in the country.
“This policy beneficial to indigenous Zimbabweans will be taken to its successful conclusion” under a new ZANU-PF government, Mugabe said.
Tsvangirai and leaders of his Movement for Democratic Change campaigned for liberalization the economy to attract Western investors. They stayed away from Tuesday’s parades and Monday’s ceremonies at a national cemetery outside Harare.