Tsvangirai ‘may pull out of Zimbabwe election runoff’

June 20th, 2008 - 7:39 pm ICT by IANS  

Johannesburg/Harare, June 20 (DPA) Zimbabwe’s main opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) candidate Morgan Tsvangirai is considering pulling out of next week’s runoff presidential election, a party source told Britain’s BBC network Friday. Meanwhile, President Robert Mugabe said he won’t retire until he is sure that “the land is truly and safely in the hands of the black majority,” state media reported Friday.

South African radio said Tsvangirai was citing the escalating violence against his supporters by followers of Mugabe as one reason for pulling out of the runoff election.

Senior MDC leaders were meeting in Zimbabwe’s capital Harare to discuss whether or not to take part in the run-off, the BBC reported. It was not clear if a decision would be taken at the meeting.

More than 70 opposition supporters have been killed since the March 29 presidential and parliamentary elections, the opposition has reported. Mugabe’s ZANU-PF party has held the opposition itself responsible for the violence.

The bodies of four kidnapped political activists were discovered this week, the opposition reported. The BBC reported that the burned remains of the wife of the opposition mayor of Harare were also discovered Thursday.

South Africa’s Star newspaper reported that another reason Tsvangirai was considering pulling out was the failed mediation in Zimbabwe earlier this week by South African President Thabo Mbeki.

Mbeki met both candidates in the runoff. Tsvangirai backed Mbeki’s proposal for a coalition government, but Mugabe rejected it outright.

The state-run daily Herald newspaper quoted Mugabe in indirect speech as saying that “he had to ensure the legacy of returning land stolen by the British settlers to its rightful owners - the black people - before entertaining any thoughts of relinquishing power”.

He gave no explanation of what he meant by land being “truly and safely in the hands of the black majority”. Following the lawless seizure of about 5,000 white-owned commercial farms since 2000, only about 300 white farmers are left.

Mugabe is 84 and has been in power continuously since independence in 1984. Observers say his remarks are an indication he is not about to step down soon after the run-off.

The country is in the midst of a violent wave of terror with new deaths being reported almost daily and mobs of ZANU(PF) youths rampaging through urban areas, forcing people to attend rallies and assaulting many of them to “correct their mistake” of having voted for the MDC in March.

The economy is in accelerating chaos, with the Zimbabwe dollar plunging from $1 to three billion Zimbabwe dollars last Friday to $1 to 7.5 billion Zimbabwe dollars this Friday, and shortages in supermarkets are worse than ever before.

Meanwhile a magistrate in Harare High Court Friday dismissed an application by the lawyers of MDC general secretary Tendai Biti to have a charge of treason against him dropped.

He was arrested last week at Harare International Airport on arrival from South Africa. Biti was also charged with disseminating false information, slandering the country’s president and undermining morale within the armed forces. If found guilty, he faces the death penalty.

“There is reasonable suspicion that the accused committed the offence accordingly and the application for dismissal or remand is dismissed,” the magistrate said.

The attorney general was set to decide later Friday whether he would consent to bail for Biti.

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