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1980: Exiled Mugabe returns to Rhodesia

VIDEO : Mugabe's triumphant return from exile

Rhodesia opposition leader Robert Mugabe has made a triumphant return to his home country after five years in exile.

Cheering crowds greeted Mr Mugabe's arrival in the capital, Salisbury, from Mozambique where he has been gathering support for his Zimbabwe African National Union (Patriotic Front) or Zanu (PF) party.

The Rhodesian black nationalist leader, who spearheaded a guerrilla war against the Salisbury government, told a tumultuous rally of supporters there would be no more injustice based on race and colour.

An estimated 200,000 or more people were at the Zimbabwe grounds in the Highfield black township of Salisbury to greet Mr Mugabe.

It was by far the largest crowd to attend a rally given by any of the black political parties taking part in next month's election.


"We will not seize land from anyone who has a use for it"

Robert Mugabe

The last barrier to Mr Mugabe's return was an assurance from President Machel of Mozambique to the British governor that 71 detainees held at Mr Mugabe's request would be released soon.

British officials say at least three of the men being held are election candidates and two are abducted white people.

During the rally, Mr Mugabe spoke mostly in his native Shona, but he appealed in English to white Rhodesians, saying "Stay with us, please remain in this country and constitute a nation based on national unity."

He spoke of the hunger for land was the "deepest of all grievances among our people".

He continued: "We will not seize land from anyone who has a use for it. Farmers who are able to be productive and prove useful to society will find us co-operative."

He said in other areas of the economy, he would "try to leave things as they are".

Mr Mugabe had strong words about Britain. He accused British Governor Lord Soames of manipulating the political situation against Zanu.

Muzorewa supporter beaten

A man suspected of being a supporter of Bishop Muzorewa, the outgoing prime minister, was seized by members of the crowd and accused of carrying a gun.

He was carried in front of the rostrum where Mr Mugabe was standing and kicked and punched and eventually stripped of his clothes and hurled under the stand.

In Context
Robert Mugabe contested the elections as leader of the Zanu (PF) party and was elected prime minister in April 1980.

He subsequently ousted Joshua Nkomo, leader of the Patriotic Front, from the cabinet and took over as executive president in a one-party state.

In 1998 he announced a radical programme of land redistribution but was initially forced to back down in the face of international pressure.

In March 2002, Mr Mugabe, now aged 78, won a controversial fifth term in office amid allegations of ballot-rigging and violence.

He went ahead with his plans for land redistribution, forcing many white farmers to leave their land.

Zimbabwe was suspended from the Commonwealth in 2002 and sanctions were imposed.

When, in December 2003, the decision was taken to continue the suspension, Mr Mugabe decided to pull out of the Commonwealth.


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