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  • 21

    Mugabe Launches Chilling Fightback
    Race; Posted on: 2008-04-05 00:45:57 [ Printer friendly / Instant flyer ]
    Zimbabwe on the Brink

    Robert Mugabe began his last-ditch fight to stay in power in Zimbabwe, sending his self styled "war veterans" to march ominously through the capital, Harare, yesterday, silently taunting the country with the threat of a return to the violence and intimidation that has characterised previous election campaigns.

    After a marathon meeting of Mr Mugabe's inner circle to discuss the biggest crisis of his 28-year rule, the ruling party endorsed him as its candidate for what is set to be an explosive runoff vote for the presidency. And in a sign of just how far "Comrade Bob" was digging in his heels, his Zanu party vowed to contest the results of 16 parliamentary seats, enough to win back the majority that it had lost for the first time in Zimbabwe's history, according to official tallies from the electoral commission.

    A five hour session of party bigwigs concluded yesterday with the 84 year old Mr Mugabe being put forward to take on his rival Morgan Tsvangirai. "We are down but not out," the party secretary, Didymus Mutasa, said afterwards. "Absolutely the candidate will be Robert Gabriel Mugabe, who else would it be other than our dear old man?"

    The runoff would be held at a date to be determined by the electoral commission, Mr Mutasa said. This appeared to suggest that the second round would not be held on 19 April, the requisite three weeks after the first round of elections, heightening fears that the ruling party would use the extra time to rig the ballot.

    "It's like hunting a buffalo," said one opposition official. "Even if you kill him with the first shot he keeps running at you. And if you just fatally wound him, then he will hide in the bush and wait to ambush you before he dies."

    Last Saturday's vote for change was still officially being counted while the regime was vowing to fight the next round with 100 per cent of its forces. Although the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) had been hoping that Mr Mugabe, a school teacher turned guerrilla fighter, would opt for the "graceful exit" being offered him in secret talks brokered by regional diplomats, opposition leaders remained confident they could defeat him.

    Almost one week on from its most important elections since independence in 1980, the Mugabe regime was attempting to extract one final ounce of political capital from the liberation struggle that gave him his legitimacy. The sight of the "liberation war veterans" on the streets of Harare was like scenes from a recurring nightmare for many. These were the feared men from the bush war who helped end white rule, but have been reincarnated as a paid militia, deployed to terrorise political opponents or carry out land invasions. In a sign of the changing times, the 400 strong veterans' parade had its own police guard an acknowledgement from authorities that they have lost control of the cities which voted overwhelmingly for the MDC.

    News Source: independent

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