Zimbabwe leader Mugabe sworn in for seventh term; decries West, gays

Zimbabwe leader Mugabe sworn in for seventh term; decries West, gays
A supporter of Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe attends his inauguration in Harare, the capital. (Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi / Associated Press)

PRETORIA -- Robert Mugabe was sworn in Thursday for another five-year term as the president of Zimbabwe, despite allegations from political opponents and Western states that the election was rigged.

The 89-year-old, who has ruled the country since its independence in 1980, lashed out at Western critics in an inauguration speech, saying many countries in Africa and around the world "hailed our elections as free and fair and credible," with the exception of a "few dishonest Western countries."


"These Western countries hold a different negative view of the electoral process," Mugabe said to a crowd of 60,000 assembled in a sports stadium in Harare, Zimbabwe's capital. "Well, there's nothing we can do about their moral turpitude."

Mugabe also attacked gays in his inauguration speech. "We hope you damn as much as we damn the doctrine that man can marry man and woman can marry a woman," he said. "Let's not go against nature."

The United States government has said it will not lift sanctions on Zimbabwe because it believes the vote was flawed. "The United States stands by our assessment that these elections, while relatively peaceful, did not represent a credible expression of the will of the Zimbabwean people due to serious flaws throughout the electoral process," State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said earlier this week.

Britain and the European Union have also questioned the results. EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said Thursday that the EU will review relations with Zimbabwe following "serious concerns" about the election.

Outgoing prime minister and opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai, who ran against Mugabe, said the July 31 elections were rigged. Last week, Tsvangirai withdrew a court challenge contesting Mugabe's 61% landslide victory, saying he did not believe it would get a fair hearing. Tsvangirai did not attend the inauguration.

"Expecting Tsvangirai to attend the inauguration is like expecting a victim of robbery to attend a party hosted by the robber," said the opposition leader's spokesman, Luke Tamborinyoka, according to the Financial Times.

"On many accounts the election doesn't seem to be fair, I'm skeptical," said Francis Antonie, director of the Helen Suzman Foundation, a South African think tank focused on promoting democracy. "It's extraordinary that anyone can be in office for 33 years," Antonie said. "I think that one should really limit the term of a president."

Still, Mugabe's victory has the endorsement of the 15-nation South African Development Community (SADC).

South African President Jacob Zuma, a member of SADC, extended "profound congratulations" in an Aug. 4 statement to the fellow liberation leader on his win, and commended the "people of Zimbabwe for conducting a peaceful election."

Mugabe, whose clan name means "crocodile" in Shonga, wore a navy-blue pinstriped suit to his inauguration, his seventh. "I promise you better conditions," Mugabe told jubilant supporters sporting T-shirts emblazoned with his face. Mugabe pledged to carry through with black ownership policies, which stipulates all foreign companies operating in the country must have 51% black Zimbabwean ownership.

Mugabe's victory — and his promised economic miracle — is worrisome to Western investors. The country's main stock index has plunged 21% since the election, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

In 2000, Mugabe began seizing white-owned farms, instigating a financial crisis that saw inflation soar. The crisis was contained after violent 2008 elections, over which about 200 people died before Mugabe and Tsvangirai entered an awkward power-sharing agreement. The coalition government abolished the Zimbabwe dollar in favor of the American dollar and South African rand, helping to bring inflation down. The country's economy, however, remains fragile.

Mugabe said he will expand mineral investment in Zimbabwe. "The mining sector will be the centerpiece of our economic recovery and growth," he said. "It should generate growth spurts across sector, reignite that economic miracle which must now happen."



Findlay is a special correspondent.