ZIMBABWEAN President Robert Mugabe is implementing a de facto military coup to keep himself in power but will be ousted with the help of other African countries, opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai said.
“We’ll manage to get Mugabe out. Mugabe is being deserted. No one wants to touch Mugabe in the region now. Eventually, we will ease him out,” Tsvangirai told Time Magazine.
Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) accuses Mugabe (84) of prolonging the delay in issuing the results of a March 29 presidential election while he plans a violent response to his biggest defeat since taking power in 1980.
Mugabe’s Zanu PF party lost control of parliament for the first time in an election on March 29 but no results of the parallel presidential vote have been issued.
“This is, in a sense, a de facto military coup. They have rolled out military forces across the whole country to prepare for a run-off and try to cow the population. It’s an attempt to try to create conditions for Mugabe to win,” Tsvangirai said.
Justice minister Patrick Chinamasa said the ruling party was preparing for a run-off after its tallies showed neither Tsvangirai nor Mugabe won the required absolute majority.
The MDC rejected both a run-off and Zanu PF attempts to have at least 21 seats recounted in the parliamentary vote. It says Tsvangirai has won and should immediately end Mugabe’s 28-year rule.
The regional body Sadc, concerned at the increasing possibility of violence because of the election deadlock, has called an emergency summit in Lusaka tomorrow.
Tsvangirai said he would try to persuade the regional leaders to put pressure on Mugabe to step down.
Sadc has been criticised in the past for failing to pressure Mugabe despite the economic collapse in Zimbabwe, now suffering the world’s highest inflation, chronic shortages of food and fuel and a near worthless currency.
Mugabe’s government said yesterday it had no problem with Sadc chair and Zambian President Levy Mwanawasa’s decision to call the emergency summit but said it had not sought assistance.
Mwanawasa’s call came after Jacob Zuma, powerful leader of South Africa’s ruling African National Congress, said the poll results must be released, signalling a more robust reaction to the crisis than President Thabo Mbeki who has insisted on “quiet diplomacy” rather than overt pressure on Mugabe.
The long delay in issuing results has dashed hopes of quick action to turn round a ruined economy that has sent millions of refugees fleeing to neighbouring Sadc (Southern African Development Community) countries.
The election deadlock has deepened the country’s economic meltdown. The International Monetary Fund forecast this week that the economy would contract by 6,6% this year and 6,77% in 2009.
The official inflation rate is 100 580% but analysts believe the real level is much higher. A private Zimbabwean newspaper said last week that official figures for February showed inflation at 164 900%.
Investors fear that if the Zimbabwean political impasse continues, it could impact on other countries in the region – especially South Africa, whose rand currency has proven vulnerable to political events in its northern neighbour.
Although the rand benefited last week because of optimism that the Mugabe era might be ending, traders said Zimbabwe was not having any effect now, with all eyes on a central bank interest rate decision yesterday.
They said negative developments in Zimbabwe were generally discounted by the market but positive news could give the rand some support, although it was not a key driver so far.
Militant independence war veterans and youth militias loyal to Mugabe have this week intensified invasions of mainly white-owned farms.
The opposition says this is part of an intimidation campaign by Zanu PF ahead of the expected presidential run-off vote.
Trevor Gifford, president of the white Commercial Farmers’ Union, said yesterday around 70 farms had now been invaded and one farmer had been abducted. – Reuters.