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President Robert Mugabe yesterday called on workers to remain steadfast in their jobs and sacrifice for the country instead of fleeing to the Diaspora.

He spoke amid deepening economic hardships characterised by a biting liquidity crunch, but blamed Zimbabwe's economic woes on Western sanctions imposed after controversial seizures of white-owned commercial farms from 2000.

Addressing mourners at the burial of major general Eliah Bandama at the National Heroes Acre yesterday, Mugabe said locals should not skip the country and seek asylum in hostile countries such as Britain.

Mugabe's statements come in the wake of rising disquiet among civil servants, who no longer have fixed pay dates.

The 90-year-old veteran said hard-pressed workers should serve their country selflessly, without complaining, as freedom fighters did during the 70s liberation struggle.

"Zvinovamwe vazhinji vanozviwona here izvi? Ndati imi sezvo murivashandi pamurikushanda ipapo, ukapihwa kamari ikaka, aah, chavachichemo, hurumende yakashata, haiiti nyika ino. Wajamba bhodha waenda kuSouth Africa (Do others realise this sacrifice as workers in your various fields. If you are given your salary, you start complaining, claiming that the government is bad, the country is not taking care of its people. This is when you see others opting to go to South Africa)," Mugabe said.

Several million Zimbabweans left the country in the era before 2009, fleeing political turmoil and an economic meltdown that slashed real wages.

Many say they went abroad to escape persecution by Mugabe's dominant Zanu PF party, which critics accuse of using intimidation to stay in power.

The 90-year old leader blasted asylum seekers saying they wrongly used his name to gain entry into countries such as Britain.

"Nhema dzichingorehwa chete. Ipassport yaVaMugabe iyoyo yaita kuti ubude nayo. Ukati ndinoda passport ndinobatwa naVaMugabe, maBritish ndozvavaida, kuti nyika yedu iyende pasi. (People are constantly telling lies. That passport which you used to travel is mine.

You go claiming that you need a passport because I will come after you. That is what the British want, to pull Zimbabwe down)," he said.

Estimates vary as to how many Zimbabweans live abroad, but rights and migration groups put the number at anywhere between two and 3.5 million, most of them in South Africa and former colonial ruler Britain.

Mugabe said some Zimbabweans were bent on sabotaging through lies the freedom fighters' achievements in bringing independence  to Zimbabwe.

The Zanu PF leader however said Britain and its allies were now seeking ways of deporting some of the Zimbabwean citizens.

"Nhasi vanhu venyu vavakuda kuti tivabatsire nematsamba ekuti vanhu vadzoke, asi vakambotorwa sei? (Today those same people you sought asylum from are now asking us to give them letters for you to return home, but how did you go there in the first place?)," he asked.

Mugabe, who has governed Zimbabwe since 1980 when his Zanu PF party won independence elections after fighting a guerrilla war to end white minority rule in then Rhodesia, denies rigging last July's vote as alleged by the opposition.

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