Tsvangirai returns to Zimbabwe to face Mugabe
Monday, 26 May 2008

AFP, HARARE - Zimbabwe opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai arrived home Saturday after a six-week absence vowing to end the near three-decade rule of veteran President Robert Mugabe in next month's election.

Despite fears of an assassination plot and the threat of treason charges, Tsvangirai returned home looking relaxed and launched into a blistering attack on Mugabe ahead of a June 27 presidential run-off between the two men.

"As sure as the sun rises in the east and sets in the west, Mugabe will not win in the second round," he told reporters in his first press conference since returning from South Africa.

Tsvangirai also rejected the idea of a coalition government with Mugabe, which some have suggested would allow the 84-year-old Mugabe a graceful exit and prevent further violence.

"There is no government of national unity on the table," he said. "There has been so much speculation but I don't see how that is going to be implemented."

Tsvangirai had been abroad since shortly after a first round of elections on March 29, lobbying regional leaders to pressure veteran President Robert Mugabe to allow free and fair elections.

The former trade union leader defeated Mugabe in the first round, but not by enough to secure an outright victory.

The aftermath of the disputed polls, the results of which were delayed by nearly five weeks, has been marked by violence that the opposition claims is designed to rig the run-off.

Rights groups and the United Nations have said the attacks are being directed at followers of Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party, with pro-government militias accused of a campaign of terror in the countryside.
Tsvangirai, who visited victims of the political violence in hospital before the press conference, said the attacks on his supporters would backfire on the ruling ZANU-PF party.

"The violence is the most disastrous policy they (ZANU PF) have implemented," Tsvangirai said.

Mugabe, now fighting for his political life after nearly three decades in power, has acknowledged a "disastrous" first-round campaign and has since accused the MDC of embarking on "an evil crusade."

Tsvangirai has made a series of demands to ensure a free and fair run-off, including the presence of regional peacekeepers and international election monitors, but these have been largely brushed off by the government.

No Western monitors were allowed to oversee the first ballot and teams from the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the African Union (AU) were widely criticised for giving it a largely clean bill of health.

The threat of a treason charge against Tsvangirai stems from allegations by Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa who accused him of plotting to overthrow Mugabe with connivance from former colonial power Britain in April.

Tsvangirai, who was beaten unconscious in police custody in March last year, has faced treason charges on two previous occasions.

He had twice announced his intention to return to Zimbabwe only to delay the move and his long absence from the country ahead of the June 27 run-off had begun to raise questions about his leadership qualities.

Tsvangirai had announced his return for last Saturday before pulling out at the last minute, citing an assassination plot.

His party's number two, Tendai Biti, has since claimed that Tsvangirai was one of dozens of top opposition figures on an army hitlist. The government denies the allegations.

Seen as a post-colonial success story in the first decade-and-a-half after independence, Zimbabwe's economy has been in freefall since 2000 when Mugabe embarked on a land reform programme which saw thousands of white-owned farms expropriated.

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