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Tuesday, January 25, 2005

MSNBC > INTERVIEW-Mugabe has lost control of party - opposition

INTERVIEW-Mugabe has lost control of party - opposition

INTERVIEW-Mugabe has lost control of party - opposition
By Alistair Thomson and Paul Holmes
JOHANNESBURG, Jan. 25 — Unprecedented infighting in Zimbabwe's ruling ZANU-PF shows President Robert Mugabe has lost control of his party ahead of elections due in March, the main opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai said on Tuesday.

''Mugabe now is a leader of a faction, not the leader of the party of the country, and that undermines his legitimacy,'' the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) leader said.
More than a dozen top party officials have been purged amid jostling to succeed Mugabe, 80, upon his retirement in 2008. The party has also been racked by squabbles over the imposition of some election candidates and the exclusion of others.
The rare infighting in ZANU-PF, which under Mugabe fought for Zimbabwe's independence in 1980 and has ruled ever since, could benefit the MDC if it decides to contest the election, Tsvangirai told Reuters in an interview in neighbouring South Africa.
But, the MDC leader said his party still wanted the election delayed to allow better preparation, and would decide only next month whether to contest the parliamentary polls, which they have threatened to boycott.
''The problem confronting us is: damned if you do, damned if you don't,'' Tsvangirai said. ''It takes two to tango. You can't have a one-party election, neither can you have an election in which you legitimise a farce.''
''As Napoleon said, don't help your enemy when he's down -- obviously it's an opportunity for the MDC,'' he said.
Tsvangirai repeated his call for polls to be postponed to meet Southern African Development Community (SADC) standards.
''We don't expect 100 percent compliance on SADC principles but we expect the minimum to be applied,'' he said.
The MDC leadership would decide on Feb. 2 or 3 whether to contest the poll. The MDC accuses Mugabe of rigging elections in 2000 and 2002 and says the government must allow them freedom of assembly and access to the media and voter lists.
Mugabe rejects charges of electoral fraud and dismisses Tsvangirai as a puppet of Western opponents, above all Britain.

The former trade union leader, 52, said that even after the creation of an electoral commission last week, Zimbabwe was far from meeting SADC standards, and the poll should be delayed.
''It's a logistical nightmare that they have to face. It's almost an impossiblity. And so if they are to go ahead, they would have to use discredited institutions -- the very same institutions that have committed the fraud over the years.''
Tsvangirai conceded that his treason trial for an alleged plot to kill Mugabe had caused despondency within MDC ranks.
But he said his acquittal last October had revived morale and he expected a second case of treason against him, linked to street protests in 2003, to collapse.
Zimbabwe's once-vibrant economy has largely failed since 2000, when Mugabe began advocating the sometimes violent seizure of white-owned farms. Inflation has soared to three digits and food and foreign currency are often scarce.
Many in neighbouring South Africa have watched aghast as economic migrants have come over the border, although President Thabo Mbeki has steered away from open confrontation with Mugabe -- revered by many across southern Africa as a giant of the struggle against white rule.
Tsvangirai said he sensed growing frustration within Mbeki's ruling African National Congress (ANC) at Mugabe's failure to resolve the Zimbabwe crisis.
Last week, the ANC's secretary-general voiced concern over restrictions imposed on the MDC, saying the election must be fair and police impartial.
''They have tried quiet diplomacy for a very long time, tried to (encourage) ZANU-PF to move towards democracy and human rights observation, but they have realised that Mugabe has remained defiant both to national and international opinion,'' Tsvangirai said.

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