HARARE, Zimbabwe — President Robert Mugabe devoted his first major speech since the unresolved election three weeks ago to denouncing whites and former colonial ruler Britain, an attempt to convince Zimbabweans their political and economic troubles stem from abroad.
The scene at the official 28th Independence Day celebration Friday had all the pomp of old, with air force jets sweeping overhead and Mugabe, 84, bedecked in sash and medals, striding past soldiers at attention.
"There are black people who are putting prices up, but they are being used by the whites," Mugabe said, promising to tighten laws that set prices and to crack down on — and possibly take over — businesses that break the rules.
Prices for food, gasoline and drinks have more than doubled just in the past week amid an economic meltdown that has emptied store shelves and idled four of every five workers. The opposition and independent economists blame Mugabe's economic policies for the collapse of what was once southern Africa's breadbasket.
Whites "want the people to starve so they think the government is wrong and they should remove it," said Mugabe, who has ruled since independence in 1980 but who, according to independent monitors, failed to win re-election in the March 29 presidential vote.
"Beware. Be vigilant in the face of the vicious machinations of Britain and its other allies," Mugabe said. "Yesterday they ruled by brute force. Today they have perfected their tactics to be more subtle. … We are being bought like sheep because they have money and because we are suffering."
The failure of Zimbabwe's electoral board to release results of the presidential ballot has angered many people. Independent tallies suggest opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai got the most votes — but not enough to win outright and avoid a runoff with Mugabe after a campaign in which the economy was the main issue.