“No hope of free and fair elections if violence continues” – Tsvangira
Harare – Zimbabwean Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai warned Monday that
elections expected within two years would be ‘a sham’ if violence being
perpetrated around the country by security forces and thugs loyal to
President Robert Mugabe was not stopped.
He was speaking at a press conference following a 90-minute meeting with
Mugabe, his partner in the country’s volatile nearly three-year-old
coalition, at which they discussed two successive weekends of violence that
forced Tsvangirai to cancel scheduled rallies.
‘If the current situation prevails, then the election will be a sham,’
Tsvangirai said. ‘We have to create conditions for free and fair elections
that are universally accepted. There is no other alternative.’
Up to 30 people were injured on Sunday when supporters of Mugabe’s Zanu-PF
party armed with stones, iron bars and machetes drove away Tsvangirai’s
supporters from a rally in the town of Chitungwiza just south of Harare,
according to the premier’s Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party.
There was ‘absolutely no protection from police,’ Tendai Biti, MDC secretary
Local police rejected this, saying they would crack down ‘ruthlessly’
The previous Sunday police refused to allow Tsvangirai to address rallies in
two towns in Zimbabwe, despite court orders instructing them not to
interfere with the meetings.
Monday’s meeting was an attempt to quell tensions.
Tsvangirai said he had also given Mugabe detailed documents, photographs and
the names of perpetrators of violent incidents, including in the case of a
white farmer and his wife who were severely assaulted by Mugabe supporters
trying to seize their farm last week.
The power-sharing government between Mugabe and Tsvangirai has been
struggling for 30 months to draw up a democratic constitution ahead of
elections expected to be held within the next two years.
Southern African leaders have been attempting to broker an end to 11 years
of sporadic violence, but their talks broke down over the weekend.
Peace negotiators tried to forge a compromise between Tsvangirai, and an
ailing Mugabe, tightening his 31-year grip on power in the face of
competitive candidates, Western diplomats said.
The 87-year-old president is rumoured to be gravely ill. It is unclear who
will succeed him.
Mugabe made his eighth trip this year to Singapore for what diplomats say
were prostate cancer operations.
Questions had been raised regarding travel expenses for those medical
trips – as well as for trips taken by Tsvangirai.
The men have spent a combined 29 million dollars on travel so far this year.
Tsvangirai defended the outlays for his rival Mugabe’s medical trips abroad.
‘The responsibility of the state is to look after its leaders. If the
president is sick, he should be attended to,’ Tsvangirai said last week.
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