Tsvangirai says Mugabe declares war

President Robert Mugabe has “declared war” in Zimbabwe, said opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai on Wednesday from inside the Dutch embassy in the capital, Harare.

“It is not an election, that is what we keep on saying,” Tsvangirai, who has withdrawn from Friday’s presidential run-off and sought diplomatic protection, told Australia’s Dateline television news programme.

“This is not an election, it is war. Mugabe has declared war and we don’t want to be part of it,” Tsvangirai told the Special Broadcasting Service programme via telephone.

Armed police cordoned off and raided a regional office of Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change in the east of the country on Wednesday, a party spokesperson said.

Call to isolate Mugabe
Tsvangirai has urged the United Nations to isolate Mugabe and called for a peacekeeping force in Zimbabwe, where Mugabe supporters have carried out violent attacks on political opponents.

Tsvangirai said on Sunday he was withdrawing from the presidential run-off race against Mugabe because his supporters would risk their lives by voting.

The opposition leader won a first round in March but apparently did not get the absolute majority needed to avoid a run-off.

Mugabe, who has held power for 28 years, has refused to call off the vote, shrugging off mounting international pressure including an unprecedented United Nations Security Council condemnation of violence. It said a free run-off election was impossible.

Southern African leaders will hold an emergency meeting on Wednesday to discuss Zimbabwe’s crisis.

The leaders of Tanzania, Angola and Swaziland would attend the meeting in their capacity as the Southern African Development Community’s troika organ on politics, defence and security, the Tanzanian government said in a statement.

Mbeki said he would not attend.

“We are not going to Swaziland. We have had no invitation to go to any meeting, especially Swaziland,” said Mbeki’s spokesperson Mukoni Ratshitanga.

Tsvangirai told Dateline that it was impossible to contest the election as his party could not safely man polling booths in three quarters of the country.

“The army, the militia, the war veterans have made it almost inaccessible to go anywhere in the country,” he said.

Tsvangirai said he sought diplomatic protection because of the constant threats against him, despite Mugabe’s assurances that he was safe.

“This is no joke, over the last three or so weeks I’ve been arrested, I’ve been harassed, I’ve been totally treated like a criminal, when I’m the leading contender in this election,” he said.

The opposition leader said he hoped mediation and negotiations could take place between all parties and that he would possibly consider a government of national unity.

“You see an election is not a solution. Only a negotiated position would actually see this country come out of this crisis,” said Tsvangirai.

“If it [a government of national unity] is on the cards we will look at it, we will look at the merits,” he said.

“So whether Robert Mugabe is there or not, we are open to any negotiation but it has not been put to us. We will see what role he can play, but I think that one of the fundamental issues is that the March election result must be respected.”

No need for military intervention
South Africa said on Thursday it does not believe there is a need for military intervention in Zimbabwe.

“In our experience it is easy to talk about military action but putting it into effect is much more difficult,” said Deputy Foreign Affairs Minister Aziz Pahad.

“We do not believe there is any need for it in Zimbabwe. It is not realistic—not possible.” - Reuters, AFP

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