Cape Town – Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe has shown no regrets about his country's controversial land reform programme, making it clear during a press conference in Pretoria on Wednesday that he aimed for equality amongst his people.
"We want peace and peace does not mean you have a lion's share and others have a baboon's share. No, we are all together and let's be equal. Inequality can breed other problems in the future," the veteran leader said.
Mugabe, 91, is on a two-day state visit to South Africa, his first since 1994.
The nonagenarian took a swipe at former British prime minister Tony Blair over his handling of the land reform programme.
'It was all constitutional'
"We did not send away whites. We took away land in accordance with what the British and ourselves had agreed upon - Margaret Thatcher's government – that there shall be a land reform programme and land should be taken from farmers and be given to Zimbabweans. So it was all constitutional," Mugabe said.
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"What we didn't want was that Blair should reverse that. Ah, that one president Mugabe said no Mr Blair, you can’t do that... So if Blair said I’m no longer willing to pay for the land, should we have just folded our hands and said, 'Oh, Lord Almighty, I pray in the name of the father, the son and the holy spirit'?
"Goodness me no! Blair, Blair, who was he? Just a prime minister of Britain. I’m president of Zimbabwe. So that’s why we said 'OK, it's your money, keep it. It’s our land, we will take it. Balance, fair," Mugabe said.
Watch as Mugabe speaks.
According to New Zimbabwe.com, Mugabe has long accused Blair's Labour government of reneging on promises of funding land redistribution in Zimbabwe made under the 1979 Lancaster House agreement.
Critics, however, say it is an attempt to shift blame from his supporters’ violent seizures of white-owned farms that crippled the southern African nation’s economy.
Mugabe and his ruling Zanu-PF party launched the land reforms in 2000, taking over white-owned farms to resettle landless blacks.
At least 4 000 white commercial farmers were evicted from their farms.
The land seizures were often violent, claiming the lives of several white farmers during clashes with veterans of Zimbabwe's 1970s liberation struggle.
Mugabe's opponents say the redistribution sparked food shortages and contributed to a massive inflation.