Zimbabwean opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai yesterday postponed his expected return home to contest an election run-off after his party discovered an assassination plot against him, his spokesman said.
Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) leader Tsvangirai has been out of Zimbabwe for over a month and had been expected to return from Europe yesterday to campaign for the June 27 second round ballot against Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe.
“We have received information from a credible source concerning a planned assassination attempt against President Tsvangirai,” spokesman George Sibotshiwe said.
Tsvangirai won the first round on March 29, but not by enough votes to avoid a second round against Mugabe, who has ruled Zimbabwe for nearly three decades.
The March elections were followed by widespread violence, which the MDC says left at least 40 of its supporters dead and scores of others injured. It accuses Mugabe’s ZANU-PF party of a campaign of intimidation. ZANU-PF blames the opposition for the violence.
ZANU-PF lost control of parliament in the March elections for the first time since independence in 1980.
Mugabe told a party conference on Friday the result had been “disastrous” and vowed he would not lose power to an opposition he said was backed by “a hostile axis of powerful foreign governments” and Western imperialists.
Zimbabweans are hoping next month’s poll will help end political and economic turmoil which has brought 165,000 percent inflation, 80 percent unemployment, chronic food and fuel shortages and sent a flood of refugees to neighboring countries.
After leaving Zimbabwe early last month, Tsvangirai was to return to Harare to begin campaigning despite evidence of violence and intimidation against his supporters and the risk of a treason charge hanging over him.
“Mugabe lost that first round, 57 percent of the people who cast their vote did not vote for him,” he said on Friday. “I am so confident that in spite of the violence, come the second round they will reconfirm that rejection.”
The election process has been marred by delays, violence and allegations of electoral fraud and the country’s economic woes are growing deeper, with official inflation at 165,000 percent and unemployment of 80 percent.
The 84-year-old Mugabe, who has ruled the former British colony since independence in 1980, lost the first round by 43.2 percent to 47.9 percent against Tsvangirai and is now fighting for his survival
Despite numerous reports from human rights and civil society groups in Zimbabwe stating the contrary, Mugabe accused the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) of fomenting post-election violence on Friday.
“The MDC and its supporters are playing a very dangerous game. They should know they cannot win that kind of war which they have carried to rural constituencies in the hope of destabilizing our supporters,” he told leaders of his ZANU-PF party.
Zimbabwean doctors, unions and teachers have reported a campaign of terror conducted by pro-government militias in rural areas against supporters and activists of the MDC since the March elections.
The MDC says at least 32 of its supporters have been killed in the unrest.
The UN representative in the country says the majority of violence had been directed at MDC supporters, International.