NEW YORK (CNN) -- Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe, in a rare interview Thursday, depicted himself as an African hero battling imperialism and foreign attempts to oust him rather than the widespread perception of a dictator clinging to power at the expense of the welfare of his people and country.
"The land reform is the best thing (that) could have ever have happened to an African country," said Mugabe, a former revolutionary leader who came to power when white-ruled Rhodesia became black-ruled Zimbabwe. "It has to do with national sovereignty."
"You don't leave power when imperialists dictate that you leave," he insisted. "There is regime change. Haven't you heard of (the) regime change program by Britain and the United States that is aimed at getting not just Robert Mugabe out of power but get Robert Mugabe and his party out of power?"
"Zimbabwe belongs to the Zimbabweans, pure and simple," he said, then adding that white Zimbabweans -- even those born in the country with legal ownership of their land -- have a debt to pay.
"They occupied the land illegally. They seized the land from our people," Mugabe said. When Amanpour pressed him on white farmers being forced off their land, he shot back, "Not just off their land. Our land."
"They are British settlers," he said, later calling them "citizens by colonization, seizing land from original people, indigenous people of the country."