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Published: Sunday August 17, 2014 MYT 9:10:04 PM
Updated: Sunday August 17, 2014 MYT 9:11:12 PM

Mugabe urges southern Africa to reduce dependence on aid, optimise natural resources

HARARE (Reuters) - Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe on Sunday urged southern Africa to reduce its dependence on foreign aid and to make better use of its natural resources such as minerals and land.

Mugabe, Africa's oldest leader and one of its longest-serving, was speaking at the opening of a two-day summit of the 15-member Southern African Development Community (SADC) in Zimbabwe's Victoria Falls tourist resort.

"Our continued over-reliance on the goodwill of our co-operation partners compromises our ownership of SADC," he told the meeting.

"Our region has abundant resources which instead of being sold in raw form at very low prices must be exploited ... to add value to the products which we export," he said.

Mugabe, 90, was most recently re-elected over a year ago. He has consistently denied charges by the main opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) that his ZANU-PF party has used violence and vote-rigging to stay in power since 2000.

SADC has been bogged down in mediating these electoral disputes in Zimbabwe for the last decade.

Days before the summit, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human rights said SADC's credibility was at stake if the bloc did not address human rights violations among its members, including arrests of political activists and journalists.

The groups cited Angola, Malawi, Swaziland and Zambia as having committed human rights violations. Mugabe did not address the allegations in his speech.

Critics say Mugabe's regional standing has been undermined by a long-running economic crisis in Zimbabwe, which they partly blame on his seizures and redistribution of white-owned commercial farms to landless people among the black population.

(Editing by Tiisetso Motsoeneng and Raissa Kasolowsky)

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