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Opposition leader Tsvangirai vows to topple Mugabe

Latest update : 2008-03-28

Opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai is determined to topple President Mugabe in the presidential election. Another defeat could end Tsvangirai's political career. (Report: C.Dumay)

HARARE, March 27 (Reuters) - Zimbabwe's Morgan Tsvangirai
goes into Saturday's presidential election knowing another
defeat could end a political career that has brought him closer
than anyone to unseating President Robert Mugabe.

Once hailed as the great hope of Mugabe's foes, the fiery
trade unionist goes into the election with opposition ranks
divided and with a defector from the ruling party sowing further
confusion by running against Mugabe as an independent.
The gruff Tsvangirai emerged eight years ago as the first
serious threat to the veteran leader, now 84, but a split in his
Movement for Democratic Change in 2005 seriously dented his
image and standing.

"For Tsvangirai this is not just an ordinary presidential
election, he will be seriously thinking about his political
future if he were to lose," said John Makumbe, a University of
Zimbabwe political science lecturer and Mugabe critic.

Economic analysts remain sceptical of Tsvangirai's ability
to revive an economy that was once an African success story,
saying he has neither the experience nor the policies to do so.

Mugabe frequently labels Tsvangirai a "pathetic puppet" used
by one-time colonial power Britain to try to bring him down.

The former trade union leader says he is his own man with
popular support and calls Mugabe a violent tyrant.

Tsvangirai was hospitalised a year ago and said he had been
bashed in police custody, an event which his critics say helped
revive his sagging political fortunes.

He has vowed to defeat Mugabe this time around, saying the
veteran leader cheated him of victory in 2002.

Tsvangirai's working-class roots contrast with Mugabe's
background as a former guerrilla leader who has a string of
university degrees.

Tsvangirai, 56, is the self-taught son of a bricklayer. He
worked in a rural mine to support his family and cut his
political teeth in the labour movement as a mine foreman.

In 1988, he became full-time secretary general of the
Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions. Under his leadership, the
federation broke ranks with Mugabe's ZANU-PF.

Tsvangirai led paralysing strikes against tax increases in
December 1997 and twice forced Mugabe to withdraw announced
hikes. He helped found the labour-backed MDC in 1999.

In February 2000, the MDC engineered Mugabe's first poll
defeat -- the rejection in a national referendum of a new draft
constitution that would have entrenched his presidential powers.

That June, despite killings and police intimidation, the MDC
stunned ZANU-PF by winning 57 of the 120 seats at stake in a
parliamentary election as Tsvangirai captivated the public with
powerful speeches.

Date created : 2008-03-08