ZIMBABWE’s President Robert Mugabe, campaigning for re-election in a run-off on June 27, warned he would not cede power to Western-backed opponents, the state media reported yesterday.
“We shed a lot of blood for this country. We are not going to give up our country for a mere X on a ballot. How can a ballpoint pen fight with a gun?” the Herald, a government mouthpiece, quoted Mugabe as saying.
Speaking in the local Shona language at a rally in the central Silobela district on Sunday, Mugabe said the nation threw off colonial domination in a guerrilla war in 1980, and his party was ready to fight again to stop the pro-Western Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) from gaining control of the government, the paper reported.
Mugabe also accused aid groups of exploiting food shortages to turn voters against the ruling party during the first-round election on March 29.
“Food assistance is required,” the Herald quoted Mugabe as saying.
“NGOs were cashing in on that and coming to you saying, “We are feeding you so don’t vote ZANU-PF, vote the MDC instead.
“Now we have shut down those NGOs. We want to scrutinise them.”
Mugabe’s government suspended all aid work earlier this month after accusing non-governmental organisations of supporting the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) ahead of the run-off.
Meanwhile, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, speaking in London with US President George W Bush, warned that international election monitors must be allowed to monitor the run-off or risk having Mugabe’s “criminal regime” steal the election.
“[Mugabe’s] criminal cabal... threatens to make a mockery of free and fair elections in Zimbabwe,” Brown said.
Bush said the US would work with Britain and others to make sure the run-off was conducted to international standards.
Also yesterday, the secretary-general of the Movement for Democratic Change — the party’s No 2 — continued to be held in the notoriously harsh police jail in western Harare, his lawyer said.
Mugabe yesterday threatened to arrest the leadership of the opposition over an increase in violence ahead of the run-off.
“Sooner rather than later we are going to accuse the MDC and the party leadership of being liable and responsible for those crimes of violence,” he told a rally south of Harare.
A MDC spokesman responded by throwing the charge of responsibility for the violence back at the president, saying “while he is accusing us of violence, he is responsible”.
Though Mugabe blames the opposition for the upsurge in violence, the UN has said his supporters are to blame for the bulk of it.
The MDC says more than 60 of its supporters have been killed in a campaign of intimidation since March.
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