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Saturday, 30 September, 2000, 16:19 GMT 17:19 UK
Opposition warning to Mugabe
Morgan Tsvangirai
Mr Tsvangirai denied intending to threaten president
By Grant Ferrett in Harare

The head of Zimbabwe's main opposition party, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) has warned of potential violence if President Mugabe refuses to step down before elections scheduled for 2002.

Morgan Tsvangirai told a crowd of about 20,000 supporters that if Mr Mugabe refused to go peacefully, then he would be removed violently.


What we would like to tell Mugabe is please go peacefully. If you don't want to go peacefully, we will remove you violently

Morgan Tsvangirai
He was speaking at the first anniversary celebrations of the opposition party at a football stadium in the Zimbabwean capital, Harare.

The opposition described their first anniversary rally as a victory celebration, not just marking their success in winning nearly half the contested seats in recent parliamentary elections, but also in anticipation of the departure of Mr Mugabe.

Supporters carried banners reading "We cannot wait until 2002", referring to the scheduled date for presidential elections.

The sizeable turnout was to be expected, again reflecting profound disillusionment with the government which failed to win a single seat in Harare.

Instability

But comments by Mr Tsvangirai came as more of a surprise.

Robert Mugabe
Mr Mugabe should retire honourably, MDC leader said
"The time for national action is now," said Mr Tsvangirai, to enthusiastic cheers and applause, before adding: "What we would like to tell Mugabe is please go peacefully. If you don't want to go peacefully, we will remove you violently."

Speaking to journalists immediately afterwards, the opposition leader denied intending to threaten the president, saying that Mr Mugabe should simply accept the demands of the people for him to retire honourably.

He reaffirmed his party's commitment to non-violence.

Whatever the qualifications and explanations offered by Mr Tsvangirai, his remarks reflect an increasing desperation on the part of many Zimbabweans as they watch the economy continue to disintegrate after months of political instability.

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See also:

06 Jul 00 | Africa
Profile: Morgan Tsvangirai
02 Aug 00 | Business
Zimbabwe devalues currency
03 Aug 00 | Africa
Mugabe denies farm truce
08 Aug 00 | Africa
Summit backs Zimbabwe over land
26 Apr 00 | Africa
Who owns the land?
17 Jun 00 | From Our Own Correspondent
The politics of fear
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