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Tsvangirai returns home to Zimbabwe

Latest update : 2008-05-24

After cancelling his homecoming last week over an assassination plot, Zimbabwe's opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai returned home Saturday ahead of an election runoff with President Mugabe. (Story: C. Westerheide, M.-N. Bauer)

HARARE - Opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai returned to Zimbabwe on Saturday for an election run-off with President Robert Mugabe and said the veteran leader wanted to "decimate" MDC structures.

 

Tsvangirai arrived at Harare airport aboard a regular South African Airways flight around 1030 GMT after cancelling his homecoming a week ago after his Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) said it had learnt he was the target of a military intelligence assassination plot.

 

The government dismissed the plot as a propaganda stunt.

 

Tsvangirai said at a news conference that Mugabe and the ruling ZANU-PF party had launched a concerted campaign against the MDC, which has seen 42 people killed and tens of thousands displaced.

 

"ZANU-PF wants to decimate MDC structures," Tsvangirai said, adding that many opposition officials were in hiding.

 

He said he was confident of victory, although conditions are not conducive for a free and fair election and ZANU-PF was trying to destroy his MDC before the run-off.

 

"The conditions on the ground for a run-off are not perfect, and will never be perfect. But we are saying with the support of SADC (Southern African Development Community), putting in election observers and peacekeepers, we can instil confidence in the people of Zimbabwe".

 

Tsvangirai has been travelling abroad since April 8 on a diplomatic drive to pressure Mugabe to surrender power following a March 29 presidential poll, which he says he won outright.

But Zimbabwe's electoral commission says he did not get enough votes for a straight victory and must face Mugabe in a June 27 run-off.

 

Peacekeepers

 

Tsvangirai said the regional SADC will hold a meeting on the run-off vote next Tuesday at which sending regional peacekeepers to Zimbabwe will be discussed.

 

"But I told them that by the 1st of June they should put these people on the ground otherwise we don't need them. You can't have peacekeepers and observers two weeks before an election because they will not be of any benefit. What we want is a complete demilitarisation of the situation," he added.

 

SADC, which is due to monitor the run-off, said earlier this month that conditions were neither safe nor fair yet for a fresh vote.

 

Zimbabweans hope the run-off will start recovery from an economic collapse that has brought 165,000 percent inflation, 80 percent unemployment, chronic food and fuel shortages and has sent millions fleeing to nearby countries.

 

The MDC has vowed to "bury" Mugabe in the run-off, ending his uninterrupted rule since independence from Britain in 1980.

 

But the 84-year-old veteran leader has also vowed that he will win the June 27 poll because his ZANU-PF could not afford to lose power to an opposition backed by "white imperialists."

 

Mugabe says the MDC enjoys the backing of Western powers out to oust him over his seizure of white-owned farms to give to landless blacks. The MDC denies the charge.

 

Mugabe's party lost control of parliament on March 29 for the first time since it came to power, and the opposition says the former guerrilla leader can only win the June 27 re-run through violence and vote rigging.

Date created : 2008-05-24

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