|President Robert Mugabe greeted supporters at a rally in Banket, Zimbabwe, yesterday. "Our people, only our people, will decide, and no one else," he said. (DESMOND KWANDE/AFP/Getty Images)|
Mugabe refuses to cancel runoff vote
Says he won't back down; ANC rejects any intervention
HARARE, Zimbabwe - President Robert Mugabe refused yesterday to give in to pressure from Africa and the West, saying the world can "shout as loud as they like" but he would not cancel this week's runoff election even though his opponent quit the race.
South Africa's ruling party issued a toughly worded statement calling on Mugabe's government to stop "riding roughshod" over the opposition headed by Morgan Tsvangirai, who quit the presidential contest and sought shelter in the Dutch Embassy.
The African National Congress also warned against international intervention following a report in the Times of London that Britain has drawn up contingency plans for deploying troops in Zimbabwe to resolve a humanitarian crisis and to evacuate British nationals and their dependents.
"A lasting solution has to be led by the Zimbabweans and any attempts by outside players to impose regime change will merely deepen the crisis," the ANC said.
It singled out Britain, the colonial power when Zimbabwe was still Rhodesia, saying it had not followed through on pledges to help fund efforts to put more land in the hands of black Zimbabweans. Britain has cited concerns about corruption.
Campaigning yesterday, Mugabe was defiant a day after the UN Security Council voted unanimously to issue a strongly worded statement condemning violence against the opposition and saying it made a fair poll impossible. The statement won support from South Africa, China, and Russia, which have previously blocked such moves.
Mugabe, a vigorous 84, kicked a soccer ball before thousands of cheering supporters and declared he would not back down.
"We will proceed with our election, the verdict is our verdict. Other people can say what they want, but the elections are ours. We are a sovereign state, and that is it," Mugabe said.
"Those who will want to recognize us on the basis of objectivity will do so. Those who don't, keep your judgment to yourselves. Our people are going to vote, and that vote will decide whether we have won or lost."
"They can shout as loud as they like from Washington or from London, or from any other quarter. Our people, only our people, will decide, and no one else," the Zimbabwean leader said.
Mugabe's plan to go ahead with Friday's vote appeared to stem less from a desire to validate his rule than to humiliate Tsvangirai.
Tsvangirai "is frightened of the people," Mugabe told the crowd. "He ran and sought refuge in the Dutch Embassy. . . . Seeking refuge from what? Nobody wants to harm him."
In pulling out of the race Sunday, Tsvangirai said an onslaught of state-sponsored violence against his Democratic Movement for Change made competing in the runoff impossible.
The party said yesterday that the chairwoman of one of its provincial branches was the latest victim when she was attacked and seriously injured by Mugabe loyalists in a northern region that has seen some of the worst violence.
The party also said the rural home of its national organizing secretary was attacked yesterday by Mugabe loyalists in military uniform. The party said the official's 80-year-old father was beaten and two other relatives were shot in the legs.
George Sibotshiwe, a spokesman for Tsvangirai, said the politician had received a tip that soldiers were on the way to his home Sunday, when he announced he was pulling out of the runoff.
Other opposition officials were also in hiding, among them Tsvangirai's campaign manager, Sibotshiwe said, adding that officials were no longer working out of the party's headquarters in Harare for fear of arrest.
Tsvangirai told the Dutch national broadcaster NOS radio yesterday that the Dutch ambassador had spoken to the Zimbabwean government and received assurances there was no threat. Tsvangirai said he might leave the embassy yesterday or today.