Mugabe speaks on Zimbabwe, Mnangagwa first time since ouster

Emmerson Mnangagwa

Zimbabwe's former president Robert Mugabe spoke slowly, but appeared in good health sitting in a blue-tiled pagoda outside his sprawling luxury mansion in Harare.

In his first address to the nation since stepping down in November, the 94-year-old said he would not support Zanu-PF, the ruling party he long controlled, nor President Emmerson Mnangagwa saying: 'I can not vote for those who have tormented me'.

We've done exceedingly well.

Asked whether he stayed long in power at the mercy and support of the Zimbabwean military forces, Mugabe said the country always held regular free and fair elections which he won.

President Mnangagwa, Mugabe's former ally in the ruling ZANU-PF party, faces opposition leader Nelson Chamisa of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) in a landmark vote for the southern African nation.

Mugabe on Sunday called Chamisa the only viable candidate and rejected Mnangagwa and the ruling party, saying that "I can not vote for those who have tormented me".

"I hope the choice of voting tomorrow will throw, thrust away the military government and bring us back to constitutionality", said a frail looking Mugabe, in a rambling off the cuff speech that lasted nearly an hour. He hinted he would be backing Mnangagwa's rival Chamisa.

"It was a thorough coup d'etat", Mugabe said, adding it was "utter nonsense" that he wanted Grace as his successor.

Mnangagwa, 75, who promises a fresh start for the country despite being from the ZANU-PF elite, is the front-runner with the advantage of covert military support, a loyal state media and a ruling party that controls government resources.

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"I can not vote for those who have caused me to be in this condition".

The ZANU-PF is now led by Mugabe's former right-hand man Emmerson Mnangagwa, 75, who came to power after the removal of Mugabe. "I wish to meet him if he wins", Mugabe said of the lawyer.

Although the campaign has been free of the systematic violence that marred previous polls, the MDC has repeatedly claimed it has been hindered by a flawed electoral roll, ballot paper malpractice, voter intimidation, bias in the electoral commission and handouts to voters from the ruling party.

A recent Afrobarometer survey of 2,400 people put Mnangagwa on 40 per cent and Chamisa on 37 per cent, with 20 per cent undecided.

Later on Sunday, Mnangagwa said in a video posted on Facebook that Chamisa had "forged a deal" with Mugabe and that a vote for the opposition leader amounted to an endorsement of the old order. If the MDC loses and contests the result there could be street protests with a potential for violence, and a protracted legal process that could stunt economic reforms.

"By the end of the day today we should be very clear as to an emphatic voice for change, the new, and the young - I represent that", Chamisa said as he voted in Harare, surrounded by vocal supporters.

Chamisa complained ahead of the vote about the independence of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) and said voters were being suppressed in urban areas where he is popular.

A run-off vote is scheduled for September 8 if no presidential candidate wins at least 50%.

"After years of stasis, the events of November 2017 gave Zimbabwe the chance to dream again,"Mnangagwa said yesterday in an address on state radio".

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