Marking 28 years of independence, Mugabe said: "Today we hear the British saying there's no democracy here, people are being oppressed, there's dictatorship, there's no observance of human rights, rule of law.

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"We, not the British, established democracy based on one person one vote, democracy which rejected racial or gender discrimination and observed human rights.

"We are the ones who brought democracy to this country we are the ones who removed the oppression which was here."

'Traitor Tsvangirai'

Haru Mutasa, Al Jazeera's correspondent in Harare, said Mugabe called Zimbabwean opposition leader, Morgan Tsvangirai, a traitor and said if people voted for his party, the Movement for Democratic Change, (MDC), they would be inviting the UK back to the country.

Tallies suggest Tsvangirai's MDC won the poll,
but not by enough to prevent a run-off [EPA]
"There was no mention of election results. The stadium was very small, mostly full of invited guests. There were very few local people here. Those I spoke to outside of the stadium were simply trying to get on with their lives, queuing for bread."

Mugabe, in power since independence from Britain in 1980, is preparing to contest a second ballot run-off against Tsvangirai on Saturday, even though the results of the first round of voting have not been issued.

Despite the holiday on Friday, Zimbabwean judges are hearing arguments from opposition lawyers trying to block a recount.

Independent tallies suggest that Tsvangirai won the election, but not by enough to prevent a run-off.

Electoral officials have said they have found problems with tallies in 23 constituencies, mostly won by opposition candidates.

Anti-Mbeki stance

After staying largely silent since the March 29 presidential election, South Africa on Thursday called for the results to be quickly released and said for the first time that it was concerned by the delay.

Mbeki, left, has been criticised for being quiet
on Zimbabwe's election problems [AFP]
Themba Maseko, a government spokesman, said "the situation is dire".

"When elections are held and results are not released two weeks after, it is obviously of great concern," he said.

But Tsvangirai, disappointed by the mediation efforts of Thabo Mbeki, South Africa's president, called for him to step down as a mediator to Zimbabwe's elections crisis.

"President Mbeki needs to be relieved from his duty," Tsvangirai told a news conference in Johannesburg.
 
Mbeki had previously played down the gravity of the post-election deadlock, saying the electoral process must take its course and there was no crisis.

The apparent U-turn on Thursday coincided with the US criticising Africa for a lack of action on the Zimbabwe polls.

Despite the U-turn, South Africa has announced that it will not stop a shipment of Chinese-made weapons from reaching Zimbabwe despite fears that the weapons may be used to clamp down on the opposition.

South African officials said they will not intervene because there is no arms embargo against Zimbabwe.

Tsvangirai said on Thursday that he had asked Levy Mwanawasa, the Zambian president and chairman of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), to launch a new mediation effort.