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MENAFN - AFP - 07/12/2012

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(MENAFN - AFP) President Robert Mugabe on Friday demanded Zimbabwean firms be 100 percent black owned, in a pre-election gambit that looks sure to spook foreign investors.

Addressing the ZANU-PF party faithful, Mugabe said the government would press ahead with controversial indigenisation policies, despite protests from foreign investors.

Mugabe lambasted any notion that economic priorities take precedence over others as "dirty, filthy" and "criminal," telling the 5,000 delegates in the central city of Gweru that the current mandatory black ownership rate of 51 percent should be increased.

Mugabe's government passed a controversial indigenisation law two years ago, arguing it would reverse imbalances created during colonial rule.

"I think now we have done enough of 51 percent. Let it be a 100 percent," he told the last party conference before 2013 polls, which could well see the 88-year-old's name on the ballot for the last time.

"Even our Chinese friends, we are saying no, in your country we do not just come. You have to accept our rules," he said speaking at a 6.5 million conference centre recently built by Beijing.

"We will develop ourselves, our own ways of undertaking the operations that yield wealth."

In typically bombastic style, Mugabe's plotted a clear populist platform for his re-election campaign.

Mugabe and his ZANU-PF face an uphill struggle to win over voters, many of whom are angered at the poor state of the economy.

The party must also patch up the damage done by internal splits that cost it dearly in the 2008 general elections.

In that election, for the first time since independence in 1980, ZANU-PF lost its majority in parliament.

That helped force the veteran leader into a shaky power-sharing government with long-time rival Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai to stop a wave of violence around the disputed 2008 vote and halt an economic tailspin.

Mugabe complained that corruption was destroying his party.

"There is a lot of indiscipline taking place," he said. "Let's have a clean party."

He said some of his officials were soliciting kickbacks from investors who want to invest in the country.

"If I get information which mentions that so and so minister is doing that, he goes immediately," he said to cheers from supporters.

ZANU-PF officials clad in party regalia emblazoned with Mugabe's picture sang songs and danced in praise of the veteran leader, while denouncing the Movement for Democratic Change led by Tsvangirai.

Others wore Mugabe's clothing label with his signature on hats, shirts, and berets.

Several officials at the conference called for unity.

Amid doubts about when the elections will actually take place, Mugabe pressed for them to go ahead as soon as possible.

The veteran leader complained of delays in the completion of a draft constitution saying "we cannot dilly-dally anymore, enough is enough," for the country to hold elections.

The southern African country is set to hold a referendum that will be followed by elections next year. No dates have been set yet.

The opposition and international community insist fair elections cannot take place until the constitution has been amended.


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