Mugabe: Opponents are 'traitors'
Tuesday, March 29, 2005 Posted: 5:13 AM EST (1013 GMT)
HARARE, Zimbabwe (AP) -- President Robert Mugabe branded main opposition Movement for Democratic Change party supporters as traitors Tuesday, raising fears of new political violence two days ahead of parliamentary elections.
"All those who will vote for the MDC are traitors," state radio quoted Mugabe as saying to a ruling ZANU-PF party rally at Mutoko, 140 kilometers (90 miles) northeast of Harare.
Similar comments by the president in the past have encouraged ruling party and youth militia's to take violent action against opposition supporters and candidates.
Mugabe's comments come in the wake of a call by Roman Catholic Archbishop Pius Ncube of Bulawayo on Sunday for a "nonviolent mass popular uprising" if the ruling party wins the election by fraud.
In a telephone interview from Bulawayo Tuesday, Archbishop Ncube said Mugabe's "traitor" accusation revived ominous memories of moves against suspected opposition voters after previous elections.
In 1985, tens of thousands of black families were evicted from their homes into midwinter cold until they could produce ruling party cards. That year, Mugabe told victorious supporters: "Now take your sticks and beat out the snakes among you."
Parliamentary elections in 2000 and presidential elections in 2002 were marred by widespread state-sanctioned political violence and intimidation.
"It may be quiet now, but we are not sure what will happen after these elections," said Ncube. "They (ZANU-PF) might go around punishing people and beating them up -- they are very violent. You are dealing with people who bullied everyone into silence in the past."
Ncube said he has been followed and all his telephones are tapped.
Tsvangirai: "Mugabe has no option but to go."
Reginald Matshaba-Hove, director of Zimbabwe's independent Electoral Support Network, said he was concerned about Mugabe's comment and had asked foreign observer teams to stay in the country for at least a week after the polls because of fears of renewed violence.
Ncube said he believes intimidation of voters by political control of food distribution, and rigging, will ensure the appearance of victory for ZANU-PF.
In interviews over the weekend he said: "I hope that people will get so disillusioned that they really organize against the government and kick him out by a nonviolent popular uprising."
Mugabe told the rally in Mutoko that they must remain loyal to the ruling party because since parliamentary elections in 2000 the area has given ZANU-PF the largest majority in the country.
The opposition party claims ruling party militants already have made the area a "no-go area" for opposition supporters.
At previous rallies Mugabe has described adherents of MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai as puppets of British Prime Minister Tony Blair and alleged they plan to return the country to its pre-1980 status as the breakaway colony of Rhodesia. He has repeatedly referred to the seven-year guerrilla war for black rule which cost over 30,000 lives.
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