HARARE (AFP) — Opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai launched a scathing attack on Robert Mugabe's rule of Zimbabwe on Friday, saying a nation rich in natural resources had become an embarrassment to the whole of Africa.
In a self-styled state of the nation address to lawmakers from his Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party, Tsvangirai also vowed there would be no amnesty for perpetrators of political violence if he takes power from Mugabe at a run-off election due in four weeks.
"The state of our nation is a state of despair ... We are an unmitigated embarrassment to the African continent," said Tsvangirai who is looking to end Mugabe's 28-year rule at the ballot box on June 27.
"We have the world's highest inflation rate, 80 percent unemployment, an education sector which has plummetted from one of the best to one of the worst."
Tsvangirai said there could be no justification for the mess in the country which was regarded as a post-colonial role model in the first decade-and-a-half after independence from Britain in 1980.
"We are a rich country with natural resources. We have the resources to attract foreign investors," said Tsvangirai.
Zimbabwe's economy has been in meltdown since the start of the decade when Mugabe embarked on a controversial land reform programme which saw thousands of white-owned farms expropriated by the state.
A spiralling inflation rate, officially put at 165,000 percent but thought to be many times higher, has frightened off investors as has a new bill which requires locals to own a 51 percent stake in all firms operating in Zimbabwe.
A one-time regional breadbasket, Zimbabwe now experiences regular shortages of even the most basic foodstuffs such as cooking oil, sugar and maize.
Mugabe's government has in turn blamed the country's problems on a limited programme of sanctions imposed by the West after he allegedly rigged his 2002 re-election.
"When you have direct and indirect sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe you cannot expect our economy to operate normally," Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa told reporters at the Zimbabwean embassy in Pretoria on Friday. "Lift the sanctions and then you can put yourself in a position to judge us."
Tsvangirai fell just short of an outright majority in a first round of voting on March 29 needed to avoid a run-off while his party wrested control of parliament from Mugabe's ZANU-PF in a simultaneous legislative poll.
However Chinamasa said that an estimated 600,000 ZANU-PF supporters had stayed at home in March and things would be very different next time round.
"People who wanted to vote for the opposition candidates came to the poll. The people who did not go to vote are our supporters," he said.
"Our strategy is to awaken the sleeping vote. The realisation that the party could lose power will re-energise them."
The period since the original polling day has been marked by a steady rise in political violence which the MDC says has seen more than 50 of its supporters killed by pro-Mugabe militias.
"The violence that is taking place must stop. There will be no tolerance or amnesty for those who torture or injure or kill other citizens," said Tsvangirai.
The 84-year-old Mugabe -- Africa's oldest leader -- has in turn accused the MDC of "terrorising" his supporters, although the United Nations says the opposition has borne the brunt of the attacks.
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