Zimbabwe’s political crisis deepened on Friday when on his return to the country from the African Union summit in Egypt, Robert Mugabe said there could be no dialogue with the opposition unless it accepted his victory in last week’s presidential run-off election.
By Tony Hawkins
Mr Mugabe told some 4,000 supporters at Harare airport: “I am the president of the Republic of Zimbabwe and that is the reality. Everyone has to accept that if they want dialogue.”
Morgan Tsvangirai, leader of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change, who boycotted last week’s run-off blaming mounting violence against his supporters, should not, said Mr Mugabe, “delude himself” into thinking the results of the June 27 election could be “:expunged from the record books”. The MDC immediately rejected Mr Mugabe’s condition as “unrealistic”.
The AU on Tuesday called on the two sides to work towards a national unity government.
Responding to Mr Mugabe’s comments James McGee, US ambassador to Zimbabwe, said he was “tired of the rhetoric and lies” coming from the Mugabe regime.
Mr Mugabe also came under fire from neighbouring Botswana, where Phandu Sekelemani, foreign minister, said his government did not recognise the outcome of the vote. “We expect other Southern African Development Community states to do the same,” he said.
Nigeria last night questioned the validity of the election, expressing “strong displeasure” at the way it was conducted.
But a truculent Mr Mugabe warned Zimbabwe’s neighbours against provoking his government. “If there are some who may want to fight us, they should think twice,” he said. “We don’t intend to fight any of our neighbours but if there is a country, a neighbouring country, that is itching for a fight, then let them try it.”
Government sources in Harare say Mr Mugabe will soon announce a new cabinet in preparation for the recall of parliament on July 16. They suggested that while the regime would ignore the results of the March 29 election – in which the MDC won a majority in the lower house of 110 seats to Zanu-PF’s 99 – some “minor” cabinet posts would be offered to the MDC.
The party and independent activists now fear that part of the security apparatus plan is to remove that parliamentary majority by force.
The MDC says its members will not join a Mugabe cabinet and warned that the campaign of terror against recently elected MPs could prevent them from taking up their seats, thereby giving the Mugabe government a majority.
The MDC says more than 100 of its supporters have been killed and 1,500 arrested in recent weeks. Those arrested include 20 MPs or parliamentary candidates, while as many as 5,000 of its polling agents, candidates and supporters were missing.
The MDC says it has evidence of a government plan to overturn the opposition party’s parliamentary majority by intimidating or arresting its elected MPs. The party says that up to half of them are either in hiding in Zimbabwe or have already fled the country.
“This means that when parliament meets in two weeks’ time, the government will have an effective majority,” said a constitutional lawyer from the University of Zimbabwe.
Additional reporting by Tom Burgis in Johannesburg