Zimbabwean presidential hopeful Simba Makoni said on Monday he would not form a coalition with the main opposition party because it would alienate dissenters in President Robert Mugabe’s ruling party.
Both Makoni, expelled from Mugabe’s Zanu-PF and running as an independent in the March 29 presidential election, and Morgan Tsvangirai, leader of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), have rejected the idea of forming a united front.
Analysts said their determination to go it alone could split the opposition vote and pave the way for Mugabe’s re-election to another five-year term.
”There are a large number of people in Zanu-PF who share my proper vision. I don’t want to alienate those people by forming a coalition with one entity,” Makoni said in an interview with South Africa’s Talk Radio 702.
”I am in a coalition with the people of Zimbabwe.”
Tsvangirai has also dismissed the idea of a coalition, telling supporters on Saturday that the MDC was the legitimate voice for democratic change in the country. A smaller MDC faction has, however, thrown its support behind Makoni.
Media have speculated that the two will form a united front to end Mugabe’s 28-year rule in the economically devastated Southern African nation.
Makoni denied on Monday that his candidacy would help the 84-year-old Zimbabwean ruler. ”I am nobody’s tool,” he said.
Mugabe, in power since independence from Britain in 1980, has heaped scorn on his two main opponents, comparing Makoni to a puffed-up frog and political prostitute and calling Tsvangirai a puppet of Britain and the United States.
The British and US governments have accused the Zimbabwean government of widespread human rights abuses, stifling dissent and destroying a once-prosperous economy, which is suffering from inflation of over 100 000%, mass unemployment and chronic food and fuel shortages.
They and other Western nations have imposed sanctions on Mugabe and his top officials.
The Zimbabwean leader blames his nation’s economic crisis on ”sabotage” by Western governments, which he says are angry over his decision to seize thousands of white-owned farms and redistribute the land to poor black Zimbabweans.
Both Makoni and Tsvangirai have vowed to reverse Zimbabwe’s economic meltdown if elected next month.
‘There will never be regime change’
Meanwhile, Mugabe celebrated his 84th birthday on Saturday at a rally aimed at boosting support before elections next month.
The bash in the southern town of Beitbridge on the border with South Africa cost Z$3-trillion — the equivalent of about R1,9-million at the dominant black-market exchange rate.
Mugabe’s actual birthday was on Thursday, but the celebrations — attended by ruling-party members, chiefs, diplomats and government ministers — were moved to Saturday to allow schoolchildren to participate.
Flag-waving party supporters and schoolchildren greeted Mugabe with loud cheers when he arrived at the venue, accompanied by his wife, Grace, and their children.
A laughing Mugabe, wearing a garland of flowers and surrounded by supporters, was seen punching the air with his fists. He hit out at the country’s ”enemies” who have criticised his presidency, including the US States and Britain. ”There will never be regime change here … Never,” he said.
Mugabe also urged ruling-party members to tell the truth about the country’s economic woes, even as he attacked his critics.
”Let’s tell people the truth about the economic hardships they are facing,” he told thousands of party supporters. ”The truth about what government is able to do and what it is not able to. We are going to work hard to address the problem.” — Reuters, Sapa-AP