Arrest me, Smith tells Mugabe

2000-10-26 16:33

London - Former white minority leader Ian Smith said on Thursday he would welcome the chance to stand trial in Zimbabwe and tell the world that President Robert Mugabe was a gangster who had plunged the country into anarchy.

Reacting to Mugabe's threats to put him on trial, Smith said: "I welcome it. I would love that. Let him try it."

"If he wants to make a fool of himself, that is his business," said the 81-year-old Smith, in Britain to address the Oxford Union.

"It would give me the chance to tell the world the truth about this gangster. Our country is in total anarchy," he told Reuters on a visit to London.

In defiant mood, Smith said: "I will give him the date and time of arrival of my plane so he can meet me at the airport. I go back on Monday week."

"Mugabe is like a wounded animal in a corner. He is unpredictable and dangerous. He is in a state of panic."

"He should have gone long ago. He has ruined a wonderful country," Smith said of his successor.

Mugabe, 76, told supporters of his ruling Zanu-PF party on Wednesday that he would revoke the national racial reconciliation policy adopted at independence in 1980 since whites backed by Britain and the US were trying to destabilise the country.

"Ian Smith and the whites who participated in the massacre and genocide of our people, those who fought against us we shall try," Mugabe said in remarks broadcast on state television.

"After all, in Europe they are still hunting the Nazis, those who fought on the side of Hitler. We will look for those who fought on the side of Ian Smith, where ever they are. If they are still in this country, then they must be arrested."

Smith welcomed the confrontation with open arms: "I think it is a brilliant idea. I would love to have a confrontation with him. I have been trying to talk to him for 20 years." he said.

Smith said: "I have more right than Mugabe to be in Zimbabwe. He is being stupid. If he wants to be stupid in public, let us get on with it."

Ian Smith was a world figure for 14 years after 1965 when he led 250,000 white Rhodesians in a Unilateral Declaration of Independence from Britain rather than accept black rule.

He was forced into a ceasefire and political settlement in 1979 after a costly seven-year war against guerrillas led by Mugabe and other Zimbabwean black nationalist leaders.

Analysts said Mugabe's threat to arrest Smith and other whites would not stand up in court due to amnesties granted to both sides after the liberation war.