|Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe addresses the crowd on Aug. 25 in Harare. Mugabe warned on Sunday to punish Western firms in protest of decade-old sanctions at the funeral of a corporate leader, retired air commodore Mike Karakadzai. (Xinhua/Stringer)
HARARE, Aug. 25 (Xinhua) -- Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe said on Sunday that he is going to retaliate against Western sanctions by punishing their businesses operating in the country if Britain and the U.S. continue to meddle in Zimbabwe's internal affairs.
The president issued the strongest warning yet of revenge against the more than decade-old sanctions at the burial of a corporate leader, Mike Karakadzai, who was a member of his Zanu-PF party.
Mugabe warned that Zimbabwe will take stern measures against Britain and U.S. companies operating in the country if the two Western nations continued to "harass us."
"The British have several companies in this country and we have not imposed any controls or sanctions against them. But time will come when you say well, tit for tat -- you hit me and I hit you. You impose this on me and I will impose this on you," Mugabe said.
He warned that Zimbabwe's attitude towards the sanctions will not remain passive as it was in the past.
The European Union (EU) and the U.S. imposed sanctions on Zimbabwe in the early 2000s, alleging human rights abuses by Mugabe's government.
The embargoes that included travel and financial restrictions were partially lifted over the last two years in response to progress on reforms made by the inclusive government that comprised Mugabe's party and the two other political parties.
This resulted in most of Mugabe's close associates being removed from the sanctions list while Mugabe and a few members of his inner circle remained on the sanctions list.
The EU, Britain and the U.S. have all refused to accept Mugabe's victory in last month's elections, alleging the elections were flawed.
The U.S. has since said it will not lift sanctions on Zimbabwe until free and fair elections are held in the southern African country, while the EU has indicated it will review its relations with Zimbabwe in light of the "flawed" elections.
Two of the country's biggest banks are British owned while some of the major mines in the country are Western owned.
Since 2010, Mugabe's party has been pushing an indigenization and economic empowerment policy under which foreign firms are required to cede 51 percent shareholding to locals.
Foreign mines were targeted first and foreign banks are believed to be next in line.