Morgan Tsvangirai returns to Zimbabwe

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Morgan Tsvangirai, leader of Zimbabwe's largest opposition party, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) has returned to the Zimbabwean capital city of Harare after a period of self-imposed exile in South Africa. He hopes to begin rallying support for the presidential run-off election against current President Robert Mugabe.

Tsvangirai had originally planned to return on May 17, but this was postponed when his party learnt of an assassination plot against him. Allegations of treason were also levelled at him last month by Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa. President Mugabe's party, Zanu-PF, called the alleged plot "fantasy", but security among the MDC is still high, Mr. Tsvangirai being whisked away from Harare airport earlier today in a three-car convoy.

Nevertheless Mr. Tsvangirai has told reporters that he feels "quite safe" and "not at all afraid". He is confident that his activities in the last 6 weeks have managed to "ensure an African consensus about the crisis in Zimbabwe" and said in a telephone interview in Harare that he is "excited to be home and gearing for the election" and "if Mugabe thinks he has beaten people into submission, he will have a rude shock on the 27th".

Human rights groups and MDC members have claimed that Zanu-PF have been intimidating and violently oppressing Zimbabweans in order to win the run-off, Tsvangirai accusing Zanu-PF of wanting "to decimate MDC structures," and Bloomberg have reported that inflation in the country, estimated in March at 355,000%, is the highest in the world.

The MDC won the parliamentary elections and beat Mugabe's Zanu-PF in the first round presidentials but the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission is organising a run-off election due to the MDC only purportedly gaining 47.9% of the first round vote, with Zanu-PF taking 43.2%. The run-off election is set to be on July 27 and the Southern African Development Community, which Mr. Tsvangirai says can "instill confidence in the people of Zimbabwe", will be monitoring the polling.