Former Zimbabwe finance minister Simba Makoni has said there will be no backlash against veteran President Robert Mugabe if he topples him at this month’s general election.
”President Mugabe is someone who has a very special place in our history,” Makoni said in an interview, ruling out retribution against Mugabe over his tainted human rights record.
”He led our country together with [the late] vice-president Joshua Nkomo into independence in 1980. He led our people with distinction in the decade and a half of our independence. We will not take those away from our elders.
”We will accord them the due respect that our African culture and African standards demand of us. We want President Mugabe to know that under our Mavambo/Kusile (”New Dawn” government) they have the same rights as other citizens.
”We are not about retribution and victimisation. We are about togetherness, oneness and I believe this is what the people of Zimbabwe want.”
Mugabe has been castigated by the West over alleged human rights violations, including the massacre of thousands of ”dissidents” in the early 1980s and the detention and assault of his opponents.
United States President George Bush has listed Zimbabwe among what he has termed ”outposts of tyranny”.
But Makoni said he will only consider the concerns of Zimbabweans.
”We are not going to be looking at concerns from the West,” he said.
”We are looking only at concerns of Zimbabweans. We are offering national re-engagement, national healing, national reconciliation.”
Makoni, who was expelled from the ruling party last month after he announced his plan to take on Mugabe, said he was expecting to get at least 72% of the vote.
Zimbabweans go to the polls on March 29 with the population grappling with runaway inflation that breached the 100Ã‚Â 000% mark in January according to official statistics, while basic goods like cooking oil and sugar are often in short supply.
Makoni, who quit as finance minister in 2003 before the economy went into freefall, said he could not wave a magic wand, but wanted to ”facilitate the people of Zimbabwe to turn around the economy”.
”Our slogan is ‘Let’s get Zimbabwe working’. I single-handedly will not be able [to], and will not even think of trying to turn around the economy around by myself.”
He also pledged to restore Zimbabwe’s strained relations with its former trading partners in the West.
”We are offering Zimbabwe into the international community,” he said. ”We are not in isolation. We belong to the region, African continent and we belong to the world community.”
Makoni has been castigated by Mugabe as a stooge of the West.
But the 57-year-old said he was ”no one’s tool” and claimed the support of many disillusioned Zanu-PF members.
He said despite challenging Mugabe he does not fear for his personal security.
”I don’t believe that any sensible Zimbabwean in his right mind would want to harm me for offering myself to work for them.”
‘You should vote for Mugabe’
On Monday it was reported that Mugabe’s deputy, Joyce Mujuru, has thrown her weight behind the veteran ruler’s bid for a sixth term, dispelling speculation linking her to Makoni.
Mujuru was quoted by the state-owned Herald newspaper as saying at a rally: ”Firstly, you should vote for comrade Mugabe, our presidential candidate, then Zanu-PF councillors, MPs and senators.
”You should vote for Zanu-PF.”
Since Makoni announced in early February that he was challenging Mugabe for the presidency, there has been widespread speculation he enjoyed the tacit support of Mujuru, as well as her influential husband, Solomon Mujuru, a former head of the armed forces.
Joyce Mujuru was at one stage seen as Mugabe’s chosen successor before the 84-year-old decided to seek another term in office.
Before declaring his candidacy, Makoni had been a member of Zanu-PF’s politburo and has since claimed that he has the backing of many disillusioned party cadres.
Meanwhile, Mugabe on Friday predicted victory in the polls as he launched the election manifesto of his ruling Zanu-PF party.
”We certainly are going to win,” he told thousands of supporters at a rally in the capital, Harare.
”We of Zanu-PF have gathered here to mark the start, the official start of our march to another victory, another electoral victory.”
Zimbabwe’s last elections, won by Mugabe in 2002, were dismissed as rigged by Western observers and the opposition.
Mugabe is also being challenged for the presidency by main opposition Movement for Democratic Change leader Morgan Tsvangirai. — Sapa-AFP