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Last Updated: Friday, 29 February 2008, 18:11 GMT
Mugabe dubs poll rivals 'witches'
Robert Mugabe 29.02.08
Robert Mugabe is hoping to secure his sixth term in power
Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe has launched his re-election campaign by calling the opposition a group of "witches, prostitutes and charlatans".

He told supporters in Harare that he was certain of victory in next month's presidential and parliamentary polls.

Mr Mugabe also called his rivals "traitors and two-headed creatures".

The economy has collapsed under Mr Mugabe, with the annual inflation rate at more than 100,000%. He is accused of rigging the last election in 2002.

Earlier, the head of the prison service in Zimbabwe, Retired Major-General Paradzayi Zimondi, ordered his staff to vote for the president and threatened to resign if the opposition won.

Mr Mugabe's main challengers are opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai and former Finance Minister Simba Makoni.

Mining share

President Mugabe, 84, was cheered by the crowd as he launched into an attack on those standing against him and the Western leaders he says are trying to remove him.

If you let the country go, God will not help you anymore
Paradzayi Zimondi
Prison service head

"Let the people's voice thunder across the whole country on 29 March, rejecting and damning once and for all the bootlicking British stooges, the traitors and sell-outs, the political witches and political prostitutes, political charlatans and the two-headed political creatures," he said.

"All the Bushes, the Blairs, the Browns, they are no greater than you when it comes to Zimbabwe.

"Yes, we want to work with others. Yes, we want to be partners with others, but only as partners, only to the extent that we allow them... to be partners."

Mr Mugabe has been in power since the country gained independence from the UK in 1980.

He said he would boost agricultural production and ensure Zimbabweans got a greater share of revenue from the mining sector.

His government has already published a law that would force mining firms to transfer a majority shareholding to local owners.

"Unless we are there as owners or shareholders, we will continue to be cheated," he said.

"There is little earning from gold mining. Yet it used to be our number one foreign currency earner. Let's restore it to its lost position."

Mr Mugabe's critics say his agricultural policies, such as taking farms from white landowners, have helped destroy Zimbabwe's agriculture.

Prison orders

Mr Mugabe's high-level supporters have also been rallying voters ahead of the polls.

Empty bread baskets in a supermarket in Harare, Zimbabwe 10 .07.07
Zimbabweans endure shortages of food, fuel and electricity

Mr Zimondi said that if the opposition won the 29 March election, he would retire to his farm to defend it against those who, he said, were planning to reverse land reforms.

Mr Mugabe blames the state of the country on Western sanctions imposed following allegations that he rigged the 2002 polls.

The sanctions are targeted at Mr Mugabe and his close associates - they are subject to a travel ban and an assets freeze in the European Union and the US.

As well as hyper-inflation, there are food and fuel shortages and just one in five adults is believed to have a job.

Simba Makoni speaks exclusively to the BBC

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