Africa

Tsvangirai says Mugabe must be given 'dignified exit'

AFP

Zimbabwean Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai on Saturday warned President Robert Mugabe not to "steal" a crunch vote next week.

Morgan Tsvangirai greets supporters in Chinhoyi on Saturday. (Jekesai Njikizana, AFP)

"Mugabe stole an election in 2002, he stole the election in 2008. This time we want to tell him that he will not steal again," Tsvangirai said to thousands of supporters.

"As a party we don't have intentions of retribution. What we only want and what we are saying is: 'Mr Mugabe run this election freely and fairly so that we can give you a dignified exit.'"

After two previous polls condemned by observers as unfair, Tsvangirai is vying to end Mugabe's 33-year rule and a four-year shaky coalition forced after chaotic elections in 2008.

Speaking in the farming town of Chinhoyi, 100km north-west of the capital Harare, he hit out at the electoral authority after a disorganised special early vote and the absence of an electoral roll.

"I have not been given the voters' roll, three days before the elections," Tsvangirai said, saying this was a loop-hole for rigging.

''Why do you need an extra two million ballots?'

He again accused the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) of printing eight million ballots—instead of 6.2-million, the number of registered voters.

"I am saying this in full view of observers," he said.

"We know you have printed eight million ballots for [the] presidential election, eight million for [the] parliamentary election. You don't explain why you need an extra two million ballots."

The lead-up to the July 31 election has been marred by flawed voter registration, chaotic early polling for security forces, and lopsided campaign coverage in state media.

A special early vote on July 14 and 15 for police officers and soldiers saw polling stations open without ballot papers, leaving thousands unable to cast their vote.

The country's Constitutional Court on Friday ruled that thousands of officers who were unable to vote due to the disorganisation will get a second chance to cast ballots during the Wednesday general elections.

Tsvangirai claims his Movement for Democratic Change party had also discovered that some of the ballot papers that were cast were later thrown away.

"You [ZEC] messed up the special vote of 70 000 people. In two days you could not handle those people," he said.

"How are you going to handle the 6.2-million voters who are going to line up for one day." - AFP

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