Page last updated at 00:34 GMT, Sunday, 6 April 2008 01:34 UK

Mugabe 'preparing for poll war'

Robert Mugabe (23 March 2008)
President Mugabe has presided over the collapse of Zimbabwe's economy

Zimbabwe's main opposition leader, Morgan Tsvangirai, has accused President Robert Mugabe of preparing to go to war against the country's people.

He said Mr Mugabe was deploying troops and armed militias to intimidate voters ahead of a possible run-off poll.

Mr Tsvangirai insisted he had won last weekend's presidential vote, the result of which has yet to be announced.

Zimbabwe's state-run Sunday Mail says the government has called for a recount and a further deferral of the result.

The paper said in a number of constituencies the vote for Mr Mugabe had been under-reported.

While the formal results of the presidential poll are still awaited, Saturday saw election officials declare the final results of the Senate vote.

The Zimbabwe Election Commission (ZEC) said Mr Mugabe's Zanu-PF party had won 30 seats, with the combined opposition taking the same number.

In the lower house, opposition parties took 109 seats, while Zanu-PF won just 97 - the first time it has failed to win a majority since independence from Britain in 1980. Zanu-PF has said it will demand recounts in 16 seats.

Court challenge

Mr Tsvangirai was speaking after attempts by his party to get the official presidential poll results released by the ZEC stalled, when police prevented lawyers from entering the High Court.

The High Court postponed a hearing on the MDC case until Sunday, after the commission asked for more time to prepare its response.

I want to say to President Robert Mugabe: 'Please rest your mind, the new Zimbabwe guarantees your safety'
Morgan Tsvangirai
MDC leader

Mr Tsvangirai claimed victory for the first time since last Saturday's vote, saying figures posted outside polling stations confirmed he had reached the required threshold of more than 50% of the vote to win outright - and a run-off was unnecessary.

"In the run-off, violence will just be the new weapon to reverse the people's win," the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) leader told reporters.

"In this regard, we know that thousands of army recruits are being recruited, militants are being rehabilitated and some few claiming to be war veterans are already on the warpath."

He claimed that the country's central bank was printing money to pay for bribes and government-financed campaigns of violence and intimidation.

"I am calling on President Mugabe to begin a dialogue with me, to begin the process of a peaceful, orderly and democratic transition," he added.

Zimbabwe's main opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai (5/04/08)
The MDC says Mr Tsvangirai took 50.3% of the presidential vote

"In making this call, I believe it is in the interests of the people and the future of this country not to create conditions of anxiety and instability.

"I want to say to President Robert Mugabe: 'Please rest your mind, the new Zimbabwe guarantees your safety.'"

Zimbabwe's Deputy Information Minister, Bright Matonga, has accused the opposition of spreading false and malicious reports to get international sympathy.

The British Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, has repeated his call for the full publication, without any further delay, of the presidential election results.

Mr Brown, attending a conference near London of international leaders, said the situation was being monitored closely.

President Thabo Mbeki of South Africa, who is also at the conference, said that both President Mugabe and Morgan Tsvangirai were ready to hold a re-run of the election and the process should be allowed to go forward.

He said this was not the time for international action on Zimbabwe, dismissing an MDC call for foreign intervention to prevent violence breaking out.

"I think the situation for now is manageable," he told reporters.


Zanu-PF leaders backed Mr Mugabe's participation in a possible run-off on Friday. There had been speculation he would stand aside rather than face a second poll.

But a BBC southern Africa correspondent, Peter Biles, says the ruling party remains divided, with many who would still like to see a change of leadership, believing that under Mr Mugabe, Zimbabwe has no future.

Western countries imposed sanctions following allegations that Mr Mugabe rigged the polls in 2002.

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.

Mr Mugabe, 84, came to power 28 years ago at independence on a wave of optimism.

But in recent years Zimbabwe has been plagued by the world's highest inflation, as well as acute food and fuel shortages, which correspondents say have driven many voters to back the opposition.

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