HARARE – Opposition MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai, smarting from a devastating electoral defeat, says he is not ready to give up and will be Zimbabwe’s head of State.
“I am determined to be the president of the country and I will be,” Tsvangirai said in a BBC interview in the UK.
He brushed aside pressure from within and outside his party calling for him to step down.
Tsvangirai has been in United Kingdom where he took part in a seminar at Oxford University on Thursday which dealt with how Africa can benefit from its own minerals.
The opposition leader is using vote-rigging claims to bolster his campaign.
And in fact, his mass support on the capital’s streets had him professing confidence that victory — in this country sitting atop one of the world’s largest proven diamond reserves — was within reach.
With the re-election of President Robert Mugabe endorsed by the African Union and regional bloc Sadc, Tsvangirai maintains the July 31 vote was by no means an election but “a military operation” funded from clandestine diamond dealings involving Zanu PF officials and the military’s top brass.
With some top officials in his MDC publicly calling for the 61-year-old to step down, Tsvangirai said: “Individuals have their own individual opinion there is no division in the MDC, there are some individuals but you don’t express that through the press.
“You cannot accept that I have become the biggest liability when Zanu PF knows I have been the biggest threat in the past years.”
The former trade unionist said leadership renewal should be debated openly in the right forums.
Two top MDC officials, including exiled treasurer-general Roy Bennet, have publicly stated that Tsvangirai should go.
“You are supposed to address that (leadership renewal) to the right structures. If you say Tsvangirai should go, you are actually falling into a Zanu PF trap of saying remove Morgan Tsvangirai,” he said.
Having lost three elections, Tsvangirai maintains he has the mettle to end Mugabe’s 33-year rule.
The country goes to the next elections in 2018. By then, Tsvangirai would have been at the helm of the MDC for 17 years.
If he stands as the MDC candidate come elections, Tsvangirai would join the likes of former Senegal President Abdoulaye Wade, who spend more than 20 years bidding and failing to get into the highest public office before finally overcoming in 2000.
But critics say the odds are stacked against the opposition leader.
They say he has lost any levers of power he had when he served in a tenuous coalition government with Mugabe and thus does not have the means to influence reform.
But the MDC leader insists that he has the capacity to end what he termed a military operation that saw Mugabe winning by an unassailable landslide.
Asked whether he should step down because of his run over the past decade against Mugabe, Tsvangirai said, “I don’t think so.”
“I beat Mugabe in 2008 and he refused to go, did I lose the election, no. This time, it was not an election, it was a military operation.”
During his lecture at Oxford last week, Tsvangirai alleged that the military and top Zanu PF officials secretly sold diamonds in Angola and used the proceeds to rig the disputed July 31 elections.