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Zimbabwe election: Mugabe turns on Mnangagwa in surprise pre-poll speech

Zimbabwe's former President Robert Mugabe delivers a speech from The Blue House in Harare, Zimbabwe, 29 July 2018

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EPA

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Mr Mugabe said he would not vote for his Zanu-PF successor, Emmerson Mnangagwa

Zimbabwe’s ex-president Robert Mugabe has given a surprise press conference on the eve of the nation’s elections.

Mr Mugabe said he would not support his successor in the Zanu-PF party, Emmerson Mnangagwa, after being forced from office by the “party I founded”.

“I cannot vote for those who tormented me,” he said. “I will make my choice among the other 22 [candidates].”

Zimbabweans go to the polls on Monday in the first vote since Mr Mugabe was ousted in November.

What did Mr Mugabe say?

Speaking from his home in the capital, Harare, on Sunday, the former president again said he had been “sacked” as part of a military coup and that he left office in order to “avoid conflict”.

He said that he now wished the leader of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), Nelson Chamisa, well in Monday’s vote.

“He seems to be doing well, and if he is elected I wish him well,” he said.

When asked by the BBC’s Fergal Keane if he would like to see Mr Chamisa gain power in Zimbabwe, Mr Mugabe, 94, indicated that he was the only viable candidate.

Mr Mugabe said: “I hope the choice of voting tomorrow will throw, thrust away the military government and bring us back to constitutionality.

“Let tomorrow be the voice of the people to say never again shall we experience a period where the army is used to thrust one person into power.”

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Reuters

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Grace Mugabe accompanied her husband for his address in Harare on Sunday

Mr Mugabe also denied that, as president, he had planned to hand the leadership to his wife, Grace, saying it was “utter nonsense”, and suggested that ex-defence minister Sydney Sekeramayi should have taken over.

Mr Mugabe added that, since he was forced from office last year, “the people of Zimbabwe have not been free”.

What is happening on Monday?

More than five million Zimbabweans are preparing to go to the polls for what will be the first time in 38 years without Mr Mugabe in power.

They will be voting in presidential, parliamentary and local elections. There are 23 candidates on the presidential ballot.

The cash-strapped and impoverished country, which has known decades of repressive rule, faces severe economic challenges.

These include issues of investment, education, healthcare and jobs – some estimates suggest that the unemployment rate in Zimbabwe is as high as 90%.

Many Zimbabweans have left the country in search of work in South Africa.

Media captionWhy Zimbabwe’s election is historic

The country is expecting a high turnout of first-time voters on Monday, where the youth vote is expected to be key, with almost half of those registered being under the age of 35.

Who are the frontrunners?

The frontrunners in addressing these challenges are Zanu-PF’s President Mnangagwa, 75, and the MDC’s Mr Chamisa, 40.

President Mnangagwa, who is known as “the crocodile” because of his political shrewdness, has promised to deliver jobs and is seen as open to economic reforms.

He has survived several assassination attempts blamed on supporters of Mr Mugabe.

Mr Chamisa, who became an MP at the age of 25, could become Zimbabwe’s youngest president.

He is known for his wit and humour, and as a lawyer and a pastor his rallies and news conferences have taken on the fervour of a revivalist campaign.

An opinion poll last week saw the MDC close the gap with Zanu-PF from 11 percentage points to three, with 20% of voters undecided. It was only the second of two opinion polls.

Election in numbers

  • 5,635,706 people have re-registered to a new voters’ roll; the opposition still has doubts about its accuracy
  • 43.5% of registered voters are under 35
  • 10,985 polling stations
  • 16 years since EU and US observers were allowed to monitor elections

Zimbabwe election: Mugabe turns on Mnangagwa in surprise pre-poll speech

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