Britain calls for action as Zimbabwe sinks into turmoil

December 6th, 2008 - 4:30 pm ICT by IANS  

Gordon BrownLondon/Johannesburg, Dec 6 (DPA) British Prime Minister Gordon Brown Saturday called for “international” action to remove Zimbabwe leader Robert Mugabe as the southern Africa nation sank further into political and social crisis.The British premier said the international community had to show Mugabe, who has ruled Zimbabwe since its independence 28 years ago, that “enough is enough.”

In light of the cholera outbreak in the country as well as the ongoing economic and political crisis, the situation in Zimbabwe was no longer a national emergency for Zimbabwe but an international one, Brown said.

Cholera in Zimbabwe has claimed close to 600 lives since its outbreak in August due to a breakdown of the countries infrastructure.

Further, the UN says about half the estimated population of 13 million is in need of food aid and government hospitals have been closed for a month as doctors and nurses strike over pay and conditions.

Meanwhile, police in Zimbabwe swore to bring to justice soldiers who rioted earlier in the week over shortages of cash.

“We are still investigating the case, but we expect the soldiers to appear before a court martial once investigations are completed,” the state-owned daily The Herald on Saturday quoted police chief spokesman Wayne Bvudzijena as saying.

The soldiers went on a rampage twice - beating civilians, looting shops and assaulting riot police - in anger over failure to get cash from banks in Harare.

Zimbabwe’s Finance Minister Samuel Mumbengegwi announced that the country will “soon” introduce a 200 million Zimbabwe dollar note as a way of battling against the shortage of cash.

On Thursday, the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) introduced new denominations of 10 million, 50 million and 100 million Zimbabwe dollar notes, a move that has not rectified the situation in a country that currently has an official inflation rate of 231 million percent.

People have been sleeping outside bank branches hoping to withdraw cash as soon as possible before it deflates, leading to banks running out of cash.

In reaction to the new notes Thursday, the price of a loaf of bread jumped from two million Zimbabwe dollars to 35 million.

Blaming the runaway inflation on severe shortage of goods, local economist John Robertson called for international financial help together with increased domestic production.

“We need financial international help - but we have to show that we deserve help by having sound economic polices such as removal of price controls and a controlled foreign exchange market,” Robertson said.

Critics attribute the ongoing financial and food crisis to Robert Mugabe’s violent land reform programme embarked upon in the year 2000 that saw farms wrested away from experienced white commercial farmers given to Mugabe’s inexperienced black supporters.

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