President Robert Mugabe said today that “there is no cholera” in Zimbabwe any more because the country's doctors had cured the outbreak.
His statement is in stark contradiction of the daily updates on the state of Zimbabwe's cholera epidemic from the World Health Organization, which said today that at least 783 had died of the disease and 16,403 had been infected as of Wednesday.
Today South Africa declared its border with Zimbabwe a disaster zone because of the surge of people trying to cross the border, either fleeing the disease or seeking medical treatment, as Zimbabwe's economy and health care system has largely collapsed.
“I am happy to say our doctors have been assisted by others and WHO (the World Health Organization)... so now that there is no cholera,” said Mugabe, in a speech screened on national television.
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The veteran President, who has led Zimbabwe ever since independence from British colonial rule 28 years ago, linked international concern at Zimbabwe's plight to what he regarded as a plot to oust him from power.
He denounced calls by Gordon Brown, Nicolas Sarkozy of France and President Bush for him to step down.
“Because of cholera, Brown, Sarkozy and Bush want military intervention. Now that there is no cholera, there is no need for war,” he said.
“The cholera cause doesn’t exist any more.
“Shall we also say that (because) there is mad cow disease, there must be war, Britain must be invaded? Brown, your head must go for some medical correction."
Meanwhile a spokesman for the Limpopo provincial government in northern South Africa revealed today that the area had been accorded disaster status at an emergency meeting this week.
“The whole of the Vhembe district has been declared a disaster,” said Mogale Nchabeleng. “Extraordinary measures are needed to deal with the situation."
Cholera has also been reported spreading into neighboring Mozambique, Zambia and Botswana.
The outbreak has prompted calls from Britain, France and the U.S. for international humanitarian assistance to be sent into Zimbabwe. Western leaders and some African leaders have also called on Mugabe to resign.
Zimbabwean government spokesmen have repeatedly accused the West of using the cholera epidemic — the worst in Zimbabwe's history — to try to oust Mugabe. They also blame Western sanctions for ruining the once relatively prosperous southern African country, where inflation is so high that prices double every 1.3 days.