December 15, 2008

The Anglican bishop of Pretoria, Joe Seoka, said President Mugabe ”must be viewed as the 21st century Hitler” because of the deaths and suffering of Zimbabweans under his rule.

Bishop Seoka‘s comments followed the 84-year-old‘s claim that the cholera crisis in his country ”is over”.

Mugabe‘s denial of the epidemic came as the WHO released new figures showing that 16,700 people have been infected with the disease and at least 792 have died.

Seoka urged people to gather on South Africa‘s National Day of Reconciliation on December 16 to pray for Mugabe‘s forced removal from power.

”He must be removed by all means necessary to stop further suffering of God‘s children and save lives,” he said.

The US Ambassador to Zimbabwe, James McGee, said the country was now close to becoming a failed state. Speaking during a visit to Washington, he said Mugabe had ”outlived his usefulness in Zimbabwe.”

Another US official, speaking on condition of anonymity, has suggested that South Africa and Zimbabwe‘s other neighbours seal their borders with the troubled country to increase the pressure on Mugabe.

The official said the closure of the borders would ”bring the economy to its knees” within a week.

South Africa, which has been forced to declare a disaster zone on its northern border because of the flood of Zimbabweans pouring into the country with cholera, is reluctant to sanction tougher action against Mugabe.

As the regional powerbroker, the country is still focusing on the stalled power sharing deal that would result in the main opposition, the Movement for Democratic Change, joining a coalition government.

Under the deal, Mr Mugabe would remain as President and retain most of his powers

Menwhile, the Zimbabwean government on Saturday accused the West of deliberately starting the country‘s cholera epidemic, stepping up a war of words with the regime‘s critics as the humanitarian crisis deepened.

The state-run Herald newspaper said comments by the U.S. ambassador that the U.S. had been preparing for the outbreak raised suspicions the West had waged ”serious biological chemical war.”

Zimbabwean officials often blame their country‘s troubles on the West. Their stranglehold on most sources of news to which ordinary Zimbabweans have access makes such rhetoric an important tool for a regime struggling to hold onto power.

After the first cholera cases, U.S. and other aid workers braced for the waterborne disease to spread quickly in an economically ravaged country where the sewage system and medical care have collapsed. Zimbabwe also faces a hunger crisis, the world‘s highest inflation and shortages of both the most basic necessities and the cash to buy them.

The Herald quoted the information minister, Sikhanyiso Ndlovu, as blaming cholera on ”serious biological chemical war ... a genocidal onslaught on the people of Zimbabwe by the British.”

”Cholera is a calculated racist terrorist attack on Zimbabwe by the unrepentant former colonial power which has enlisted support from its American and Western allies so that they invade the country,” Ndlovu was quoted as saying.

Experts, however, blame the epidemic on Zimbabwe‘s economic collapse. The WHO said Friday the death toll was at 792 and that the number of cholera cases that have been reported since the outbreak began in August was now 16,700. The epidemic has reached a fatality rate of 4.7 percent. To be under control it would have to be less than 1 per cent, WHO spokeswoman Fadela Chaib said Friday.

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