Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe declared Wednesday that he had overcome British-backed efforts to topple him, leading muted independence celebrations for a country beset by recent political violence and a plummeting economy.
The 83-year-old Zimbabwean leader described the opposition Movement for Democratic Change as "the shameless local puppets" in a conspiracy by Britain, the former colonial ruler, to remove him from power.
Mugabe, who has led Zimbabwe since its independence from Britain on April 18, 1980, acknowledged that worsening economic hardships were "stirring disquiet" across the nation and said security forces were ready to defend national and economic interests from what he called "the strategy of saboteurs" in the recent unrest.
The government has used security forces to violently disrupt demonstrations, including a prayer meeting last month in which dozens were assaulted, including main opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai. The government called the meeting a political protest banned under sweeping security laws.