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War veterans threaten violence

President Robert Mugabe greets veterans of the liberation struggle in Harare after they marched in the Harare endorsing him as their preferred candidate for the March 2008 elections.

Veterans of Zimbabwe's liberation war vowed to seize the remaining white-owned commercial farms if President Robert Mugabe loses the expected second round of a presidential ballot.

Opposition parties have taken control of parliament for the first time since Zimbabwe won its independence from Britain in 1980, but the results of the 29 March presidential ballot have not yet been officially released by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC).

The reappearance of the war veterans on the political scene, who led the invasions of white farms in 2000 soon after Mugabe lost a referendum on a new constitution, has heightened fears that the ruling ZANU-PF will unleash state violence to coerce the electorate to ensure Mugabe wins the run off ballot.

According to independent assessments, Morgan Tsvangirai, leader of opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), received 49 percent of the presidential vote, Mugabe, who has been in power for 28 years, secured 42 percent of the ballot.

The MDC on 4 April filed a High Court application in the capital Harare, to force the ZEC, whose executive committee are appointed by Mugabe, to immediately release the results of the presidential vote.

At the same time ZANU-PF's politbureau, the party's most powerful decision making body, held a five-hour meeting and decided that Mugabe should contest a run off vote for president should none of the candidates attain the 50 percent plus one vote required for an outright win.

The return of British settlers

War veterans chairman, Jabulani Sibanda told IRIN the recent poll was an attempt to take the country back to 1890 when British settlers first occupied the territory.

Sibanda said: "It has come to our realisation that the elections were used as another war front to prepare for the re-invasion of our country. A large number of the remaining white commercial farmers were seen celebrating the alleged victory of Morgan Tsvangirai.

''It has come to our realisation that the elections were used as another war front to prepare for the reinvasion of our country''

"Results are just figures but an invasion is physical. We will deal with that which is tangible."

Sibanda told IRIN the announcement by the MDC, who claimed Tsvangirai had won the presidential ballot without the neeed for a second round of voting, and before the ZEC - who has yet to announce the results - was provocative.

"As freedom fighters, we feel compelled to repel the invasion. We can not just sit back when there are all these provocations," he said. In 2000 Mugabe turned to former guerillas to save his political career after he had just lost a referendum.

The MDC leadership was not available for comment and were engaged in meetings, apparently concerned with taking over the reigns of government.

In the parliamentary elections Mugabe's ZANU-PF won 97 seats, compared to 99 seats secured by the MDC led by Tsvangirai, while an MDC breakaway faction won 11 seats.

Zimbabwe Civil Society Organisations, an umbrella body, warned ZANU-PF against embarking on violence as an alternative."We have it on good and reliable authority that there are plans to embark on a retributive and violent campaign before and after the final senate and presidential results are announced.

A second round of voting, according to the constitution, should be held within 21 days, but ZANU-PF has warned that this might be delayed to 90 days because there was not enough money to hold the run off ballot.

"This excuse would not be acceptable given the anxiety that is gripping the nation and given that in essence, such a move would be undemocratic and could create a serious constitutional crisis," said the umbrella group.


This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information:

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