- The Washington Times - Friday, May 30, 2008

SHAMVA, Zimbabwe - President Robert Mugabe will never vacate his office for opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai even if he loses a runoff election next month, the Zimbabwean leader’s wife said yesterday.

Grace Mugabe told followers of her husband’s Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) party that Mr. Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) would not be allowed to take power under any circumstances.

“Even if people vote for the MDC, Morgan Tsvangirai will never step foot inside State House,” she said after meeting victims of political violence that has rocked Zimbabwe since the first round of voting on March 29.

“He will only get to hear about what it looks like inside State House from people who have been there. Even if Baba (Mr. Mugabe) loses, he will only leave State House to make way for someone from ZANU-PF.”

The 84-year-old president, who has ruled the former British colony since independence in 1980, is to square off against Mr. Tsvangirai on June 27 after an inconclusive first round.

Mr. Tsvangirai fell just short of an outright majority on March 29 needed to avoid a runoff, although the MDC wrested control of Parliament from ZANU-PF in a legislative election that took place at the same time.

Mrs. Mugabe, who is 40 years younger to Mr. Mugabe, accompanied her husband to the rural area of Shamva, northeast of capital Harare, for a tour of a homestead that was reportedly burned down by MDC followers.

”What we saw really touched us. We are not animals but humans. If you burn down someone’s house you want to destroy their life,” the president said.

“We want to warn the MDC they should stop immediately this barbaric campaign of burning and destroying people’s homes.”

While Mr. Mugabe has laid the blame for postelection violence at the feet of the MDC, the United Nations and human rights groups say ZANU-PF has been responsible for the lion’s share.

The MDC says more than 50 of its supporters have been killed by pro-Mugabe militias since March 29, and tens of thousands displaced, as part of a campaign of intimidation designed to ensure victory for Mr. Mugabe on June 27.

The southern African country is suffering chronic food shortages and has the world’s highest inflation rate at more than 165,000 percent. Critics blame Mr. Mugabe’s mismanagement for the crisis.

Yesterday, the president conceded the country was facing a crisis, and said his government has bought 600,000 tons of corn from neighboring South Africa to ease shortages before the June vote.



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