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03 Apr 2008 11:57
Robert Mugabe’s ruling party is ready for a presidential election run-off between the veteran Zimbabwean leader and his arch-rival, Morgan Tsvangirai, a government spokesperson said on Thursday.
“Zanu-PF is ready for a run-off, we are ready for a resulting victory,” Deputy Information Minister Bright Matonga said.
Matonga said the party had “let the president down” and had not diverted enough energy into its campaign.
“In terms of strategy, we only applied 25% of our energy into this campaign ... That [the run-off] is when we are going to unleash the other 75% that we did not apply in the first case.”
Matonga said Mugabe, who has not been seen in public since he cast his vote in Saturday’s polls, was “very much alive and kicking and is anxiously awaiting the results as well”.
The electoral commission announced overnight that the Zanu-PF had lost its parliamentary majority to Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).
The delay in announcing the presidential result has fuelled suspicions that the 84-year-old leader was seeking to tamper with the results and cling to the seat he has held since Zimbabwe gained independence from Britain in 1980.
Frustrated with the silence from the commission, the opposition MDC pre-emptively released its own results on Wednesday indicating that Tsvangirai had won the presidency outright with more than 50% of votes.
State media has said Mugabe now faces the likelihood of a run-off against Tsvangirai, who Mugabe recently pledged would never rule in his lifetime.
‘Mugabe, the future is very bleak’
Meanwhile, Zimbabweans who have fled to South Africa to escape economic misery and political persecution are hopeful they might be about to see the back of Mugabe at last.
While Zimbabwe still awaits official word of whether Mugabe will stay or go, in downtown Johannesburg the possibility of change, while welcomed, is almost too good to be true.
“I am happy because I heard that the opposition won.
“The old man killed a lot of people and he wants to cover up many corrupted things,” speculated a young worker, who came to Johannesburg in November and has since survived by doing odd jobs.
Along with thousands of his compatriots with nowhere else to go, Gwadzoayi beds down at night in the Central Methodist Church hall, in the heart of downtown Johannesburg.
“There is a mix of cynicism and excitement among the people here. Some don’t believe it is happening and fear some trick from Mugabe,” said Paul Verryn, the pastor.
His sermon on Wednesday night was topical: “Whatever the results, you must behave like one nation.”
One of the crowd who gathered for the mass, 22-year-old Owen Muchanyu, said he has been praying for Tsvangirai to become president in place of Mugabe.
“Maybe with him, Zimbabwe will change. With Mugabe, the future is very bleak,” said the former teacher, who decided to leave two months ago in order to escape intimidation by Zanu-PF officials towards public-sector workers.
“Since I was a teacher, I was contrived to support the ruling party, but I couldn’t do that, I am on the opposition side.”
As Zimbabwe’s once thriving economy went into meltdown, neighbouring South Africa became the destination of choice for those seeking greener pastures.
Some estimates say the number of refugees may be as high as three million.—Sapa-AFP
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