Tsvangirai claims Zimbabwe presidency
Article from: AAP
By Fanuel Jongwe in Harare
April 06, 2008 01:34am
ZIMBABWE'S opposition chief Morgan Tsvangirai has claimed outright victory in presidential elections and warned that Robert Mugabe's ruling party will resort to violence to cling to power.
"ZANU-PF is preparing a war against the people of Zimbabwe," Mr Tsvangaria, the leader of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), told a press conference, giving his first personal declaration of victory.
"We won the election without a need for a run-off."
There has still been no official announcement of the result a week after last Saturday's polls but the ruling ZANU-PF declared yesterday there will be a run-off and that Mugabe will stand and defeat Tsvangirai.
"In the run-off, violence will be a new weapon to reverse the people's victory," Mr Tsvangirai warned.
He said the violence could rival that seen in 2000, when Mugabe failed to win backing in a referendum for a broadening of his powers. Shortly after that result, Mugabe loyalists embarked on a series of invasions of white-owned farms after accusing the farmers of persuading their workers to vote against the president's proposals.Several dozen people were killed in the ensuing violence while thousands of farmers and their workers were forced to flee.
Mr Tsvangirai, who suffered head injuries in an attack by Mr Mugabe's security forces last year, also extended an olive branch to his old rival by saying he will guarantee his future safety and calling for dialogue.
"I am calling on President Mugabe to begin a dialogue with me, to begin the process of a peaceful, orderly and democratic transition," Mr Tsvangirai said.
"In making this call, I believe it is in the interests of the people and the future of this country not to create conditions of anxiety and instability."
"I want to say to President Robert Mugabe: 'Please rest your mind, the new Zimbabwe guarantees your safety'."
Mr Tsvangirai, whose party has already claimed he cleared the 50 per cent threshold needed to avoid a run-off, poured scorn on the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission for its failure to declare the outcome.
"This is a totally unacceptable situation in delaying the release of the results," said Mr Tsvangirai.Mr Mugabe, who has overseen his country's economic ruin since he took power at independence 28 years ago, suffered the worst setback of his long rule at last Saturday's elections when his party lost control of parliament.
But he is in no mood for retirement and won backing from his ZANU-PF party yesterday to fight a run-off against his MDC rival if neither is found to have won over 50 per cent in the first round of a simultaneous presidential election.
In a politburo meeting yesterday, ZANU-PF not only endorsed Mugabe to stand in a run-off but also demanded a recount be held in at least 16 parliamentary constituencies, potentially enough to overturn its initial defeat.
Zimbabwe's opposition and the ruling party each won 30 of the 60 seats in elections to the largely ceremonial senate upper house of parliament, according to final electoral commission results today.
With tensions rising between the government and opposition, long-time mediator Thabo Mbeki, the president of neighbouring South Africa, called for patience from all sides.
"I think there is time to wait, let's see the outcome of the election results," Mr Mbeki said in London after meeting Gordon Brown, the prime minister of former colonial power Britain.
"If there is a re-run of the presidential election, let's see what comes out of that. I think that is the correct way to go."
While ZANU-PF is weighing its legal options over the parliamentary vote, the MDC tried today to persuade the high court to hear its application for the immediate release of the presidential results.
However MDC lawyer Alec Muchadehama said the court has put the matter off until tomorrow.
"I am concerned with the postponement but we will wait for tomorrow," he said.
Meanwhile, lawyers for a British and an American journalist who were detained for reporting without accreditation said police are refusing to release them despite a ruling by the attorney general that there is no case to answer.
"The police have refused to comply with the attorney-general's directive so we are doing an urgent application today to compel the police to release them," lawyer Beatrice Mtetwa said.