Zim opposition urges action to end Mugabe rule

Zimbabwe’s main opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai said on Wednesday his movement will mobilise supporters to block President Robert Mugabe’s plan to extend his rule by two years to 2010.

Mugabe’s ruling Zanu-PF party last month approved a plan to move presidential polls from 2008 to 2010 so they can be held at the same time as parliamentary elections.

At a news conference to discuss his party programme for the year, Tsvangirai — who heads the main wing of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) — said the MDC will fight hard to push Mugabe out on schedule in 2008.

Although he declined to discuss details, other party sources said the MDC will lead a series of street protests and industrial strikes in the coming months.

”The tragedy we face today stems from the fact that Zanu-PF and Mugabe have completed their project to turn Zimbabwe into a totalitarian state,” Tsvangirai said.

”In this regard, the national council resolved that we would engage in a campaign that will ensure the Zanu-PF project collapses and that the agenda for democracy and change should be pursued vigorously,” he said, adding that presidential polls must be held on schedule next year.

Critics accuse Mugabe of ruining Zimbabwe — once one of Africa’s most promising economies — and desperate conditions faced by average workers have led to several wildcat strikes, including one by junior doctors.

Political analysts say more strikes may be on the cards, with or without the MDC’s leadership, as average workers grow angry over a deepening economic crisis that has seen inflation rocket to more than 1 200%, unemployment surge and frequent shortages of food, fuel and foreign exchange.

Tsvangirai, who charges that Mugabe robbed his party of victory in two parliamentary polls and a presidential vote held in the last seven years, said the MDC will work with other civic and political groups under a ”Save Zimbabwe Campaign”.

Tsvangirai declined to discuss whether the MDC’s campaign this year will include mass protests — which he threatened last year but which analysts said failed to draw support after Mugabe warned he would crush them.

”We are a democratic movement … and we will employ democratic strategies, but I am not going to discuss those strategies,” he said. ”People power shall be our salvation.”

Although the plan to extend Mugabe’s rule to 2010 must still be approved by Zanu-PF’s central committee and by Parliament, analysts say this is virtually guaranteed as Mugabe has control over both institutions.

Mugabe, now 82 and Zimbabwe’s sole ruler since independence from Britain in 1980, says his country’s woes are the result of sabotage by political foes opposed to his black nationalist policies, which have included seizing white-owned farms.

He has accused the MDC of being a puppet of Britain and the United States, and promised to resist any efforts to promote ”regime change” against his government. — Reuters

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