Zimbabwe run-off set for June 27

Opposition leader Tsvangirai to return to country to face off aganist Mugabe.

    Mugabe is facing the sternest challenge to his rule since becoming Zimbabwe's president in 1980 [EPA]

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    He believes that he won enough votes in the first round of voting on March 29 to cross the 50 per cent threshold needed to win the presidency.

    The MDC now holds the majority in parliament after defeating Zanu-PF in elections for the legislature, held simultaneously with the presidential poll.

    Tsvangirai to return

    Tsvangirai has been out of the country for more than a month but his party said he will return to Zimbabwe on Saturday, kicking off his campaign in the southern city of Bulawayo.

    "The rally in Bulawayo will mark the beginning of nationwide  rallies in which he will be seeing victims of political violence as well as thanking the nation for voting for change on March 29," Luke Tamborinyoka, the MDC's director of information, said.

    Tsvangirai says he won Zimbabwe's presidential
    election in the first round of voting [AFP]

    Speaking in Northern Ireland, where he has held political consultations, Tsvangirai said he would make a show of solidarity with MDC supporters who have been allegedly targeted by Mugabe's followers.

    "It is because of these people that I must return to Zimbabwe, to be with our people, to lift them out of this darkness that pervades their lives," he said in a speech in Belfast.

    "It is because of these people that we will triumph over the dictatorship of Robert Mugabe. It is because of these people that democracy will never die in Zimbabwe."

    The opposition has said that more than 30 of its supporters have been killed by Mugabe supporters in post-election violence.

    Amnesty International, a London-based human rights group, said on Thursday that Mugabe's supporters were forcibly recruiting youths to carry out attacks against people suspected of belonging to the opposition.

    Zanu-PF strategy

    Meanwhile on Friday, Mugabe and senior Zanu-PF members met to draw up their campaign strategy for the run-off poll.

    "Although the presidential result did not yield an outright winner, it was indeed disastrous," Mugabe said at the opening of a Zanu-PF congress.

    He said he would not concede power to the opposition, which he says is backed by western imperialists.

    He also accused supporters of the opposition of targeting Zanu-PF followers.

    The wrangling over the presidential office in Zimbabwe comes amid an economic crisis in the country.

    About 80 per cent of the workforce is unemployed while the official inflation rate in February stood at 165,000 per cent - the world's highest.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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