Government opponents in Zimbabwe, bloodied and defiant after police brutally crushed fresh dissent, today vowed to drive President Robert Mugabe from office in a campaign of protest they described as “war” against the nation’s rulers.
“Our core business is to drive Mugabe out of town,” said Arthur Mutambara, the head of one faction of the divided opposition Movement for Democratic Change.
“We are very much united in our confrontation with the regime of Robert Mugabe,” Mr Mutambara said of the MDC.
“We are living under a criminal and brutal dictatorship. Mugabe can go to hell and go hang. We are talking about total rebellion and war,” said Mutambara.
Yesterday, a defiant and angry Mr Mugabe lashed out at Western support for what he called violent opposition activists and told his growing number of critics to “go hang”.
At a press conference with President Jakaya Kikwete of Tanzania, Mr Mugabe rejected international condemnation of the government’s clampdown on its opponents, state television reported.
“When they criticise the government when it tries to prevent violence and punish perpetrators of that violence, we take the position that they can go hang,” he said.
The television’s nightly news programme showed footage of Mr Mugabe addressing reporters after a five-hour meeting in Harare with Mr Kikwete, who heads the political and diplomatic panel of the 14-nation Southern African Development Community.
Tanzania is one of three Southern African nations appointed by the regional bloc to try to help calm economic and political turmoil in Zimbabwe which is reeling under the world’s highest inflation rate, shortages of most basic commodities and suppression of the main opposition party.
Southern African countries, especially regional powerhouse South Africa, have been accused of not doing enough to defuse the tensions and bridge differences between Mr Mugabe and his Western critics.
Criticism from Western governments led by Britain, the former colonial ruler, and the United States were stepped up this week after police cracked down on Sunday on a prayer meeting organised by the opposition.
Main opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai, head of the Movement for Democratic Change, and scores of other activists were injured by police. One activist was shot dead on Sunday in the Harare township of Highfield.
Mr Tsvangirai, 54, was awaiting the results of a brain scan after doctors reported they suspected a skull fracture, brain injury and internal bleeding.
State radio quoted Mr Mugabe as saying he took “great exception” to the support the West had given his opponents.
Police, meanwhile, reported renewed unrest in Zimbabwe’s second city of Bulawayo yesterday, where suspected opposition supporters erected barricades, some heaped with burning tyres, in suburban streets, a radio report said.