A TOP official in Robert Mugabe’s Zanu PF on Saturday pulled off a surpise to publicly declare that he fully supports Mr Mugabe’s main challenger in the March 29 election.
from our correspondent in Harare
Mr Dumiso Dabengwa, a senior politburo member threw his weight behind former finance minister Dr Simba Makoni as he was set to launch his presidential campaign.
Dr Makoni was also backed by Mr Cyril Ndebele, a former speaker of parliament. Mr Dabengwa has a strong influency among war veterans, one of Mr Mugabe’s strong backers.
The move could significantly strengthen Dr Makoni’s bid to defeat Zimbabwe’s veteran leader, who has been in power since independence from Britain in 1980.
“We urged him (Makoni) to come clean and take the burden and we will give him the necessary facilitation and support,” Mr Dabengwa told more than 4000 people at the rally at White City Stadium in Bulawayo.
Mr Dabengwa was a commander in the liberation movement before independence. He said he is prepared hear any kind of insults from Mr Mugabe. “It is not about his ability or strength. It’s about the people of Zimbabwe and enabling them to chart the manner in which we can face the challenges,”
“All Dr Makoni is doing is to create an environment where we can say how we want our country to be governed.”
Mr Mugabe, 84, faces Dr Makoni, who is standing as an independent after being expelled from Zanu PF, and Morgan Tsvangirai, a long time rival from the main opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).
Mr Mugabe has capitalised on a weak opposition to maintain a tight grip on the country despite a severe economic crisis.
Mr Mugabe denounced his opponents as charlatans and witches when he launched his election manifesto on Friday and promised to give stakes in foreign-owned mines to locals.
Critics accuse Mr Mugabe of wrecking Zimbabwe’s economy but he accuses Western foes, especially Britain, of working with the opposition to oust him in retaliation for his policy of seizing white-owned commercial farms to resettle landless blacks.
Mr Mugabe promised in his manifesto to boost agricultural production by
continuing to equip those farmers who had benefited from the land grabs.
Makoni has repeatedly stressed that he was working with people within ZANU PF to bring political change to Zimbabwe.
He said ZANU PF would not allow candidates who were defeated in the party’s primary elections to stand for the party saying the move was part of the “regime change agenda being driven by Brown (British Prime Minister
The veteran Zimbabwean leader who is seeking a new five-year term at the polls month-end, described Dr Makoni’s backers who were still within ZANU PF as “two-faced” political creatures.
Mr Mugabe also lashed out at Dr Makoni describing him as a coward who had failed to properly represent ZANU PF in Europe during the 1970s liberation struggle. Makoni was the ZANU PF representative to Europe in the 1970s.
“Yesterday you were a coward. How come now you have courage, where did that courage come from? Can people now trust you with their freedom? Let the people’s voice thunder across the whole country.
“On 29 March, reject him and dump him once and for all . . . the
bootlicking British stooges, and sellouts, the political witches, and politics prostitutes, political charlatans and two-faced political creatures,” said Mugabe.
Mr Mugabe’s opponents have also made ambitious promises to ease the economic crisis ravaging Zimbabweans, who are more concerned with battling the world’s highest inflation rate of more than 100,000 percent and food and fuel shortages,than politics.
The opposition’s failure to unite behind a single candidate has strengthened Mr Mugabe’s chances of re-election on March 29.
The MDC says Mr Mugabe has fraudulently won previous elections and unleashed violence against opposition supporters.