HARARE – Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai has offered President Robert Mugabe an olive branch, telling the 89-year-old that there will be no witch hunt if he delivers a free election and leaves peacefully.
Addressing thousands of supporters at Gokwe Centre in the Midlands Province yesterday, Tsvangirai said Mugabe was too old to face retribution for anything he might have done in the three decades he has been in office.
“Mugabe’s age has become a serious national issue. We can’t elect an 89-year-old to run this country for another five years. That will be suicidal,” said Tsvangirai, who is addressing more than 10 rallies in Midlands alone.
Mugabe, who was in Singapore recently seeking medical help ostensibly for an eye ailment, is addressing 10 rallies countrywide.
“It’s time to give Mugabe a dignified exit. But I was reading in the newspaper that he is afraid of being treated like Gaddafi,” Tsvangirai said.
The Daily News reported on Wednesday that Mugabe had told supporters at a rally in Chitungwiza he fears that he might share the fate of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, killed after capture, or Saddam Hussein, the toppled Iraqi president sentenced to death by hanging.
“Mugabe should not be afraid of a Gaddafi scenario but the condition is that ‘make sure this election is free and fair. You lose and you go to retirement peacefully. No one will touch you’. With the work at hand to rebuild Zimbabwe, why should we spend valuable time chasing after the old man?” said Tsvangirai.
“In 2008, Mugabe rigged and still lost the election but refused to leave. That will not happen again. Sadc has told Mugabe that ‘look munhu wemukuru haasiye bhachi padare. Zvowotoita kubatana nemwana uyu mogadzirisa nyika mozoenda kumaelections. We have given Mugabe a chance to cleanse himself so that he can have a dignified exit. He should not squander this opportunity.”
Tsvangirai said did not doubt Mugabe’s liberation war record.
“But we argue with his record in government,” Tsvangirai said. “He has taken the country down the poverty lane. Tsvangirai is not the enemy. The enemy is poverty and underdevelopment in the country. The record is there.
“Zanu PF will come to you begging for another chance. Ask them a simple question: What is it that you intend to achieve now which you failed to do in 33 years?
“Zanu PF’s record is clear. They destroyed the economy, destroyed a vibrant economy and they have no hint on how to create a bright future for our kids in school.”
Throughout the speech, Tsvangirai was interrupted by a handful Zanu PF supporters who made rounds at the venue in two trucks chanting their party slogans.
In a sign that even Zanu PF grassroots supporters no longer trust Mugabe to win the next election, a group of party supporters who wanted to disrupt Tsvangirai’s rally sang: “Zvikaramba pamaelections totongwa nemasoja.”
But many have warned that top commanders who are living large and threatening coup do not enjoy the support of suffering rank and file in the unformed forces.
Thousands were denied their right to vote earlier this week after it was discovered the majority of them would not vote for Zanu PF.
Tsvangirai said some elements in Zec were working with Zanu PF to frustrate the uniformed forces.