HARARE, Zimbabwe (AP) — Zimbabwe’s longtime President Robert Mugabe said Monday his party will not yield its victory in elections that, although disputed, were endorsed by African observers and conducted without the violence that marred previous polls.
In his first public speech since the July 31 elections, Mugabe spoke at the annual Heroes’ Day gathering that honors guerrillas killed in the war for independence in 1980 at a national shrine outside Harare.
Zimbabwe’s July 31 polls gave Mugabe 61 percent of the vote, trailed by outgoing Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai with 34 percent.
The 89-year-old president said Zimbabweans voted freely: “We are delivering democracy on a platter. Never will we go back on our victory.”
Tsvangirai, who is challenging the poll results in court and alleges widespread rigging, stayed away from Monday’s gathering.
But in a message to his supporters marking the day, Tsvangirai said Zimbabweans are “still shocked by the brazen manner in which their vote was stolen.”
“So many sons and daughters of this country sacrificed their lives … and one of the fundamental rights they toiled at, died for was the right to vote,” he said.
On Monday, speaking in the local Shona language, in colloquial phrases he does not use when speaking in English, Mugabe called on Tsvangirai to accept defeat.
“Those who are smarting from defeat can commit suicide if they so wish. But I tell them even dogs will not sniff at their flesh if they choose to die that way,” he said.
He described Tsvangirai as the “enemy” in his party’s midst during the shaky coalition brokered by regional leaders after the last disputed and violent poll in 2008.
“We have thrown the enemy away like garbage. They say we have rigged, but they are thieves” because of corruption during their time in the government. “We say to them: You are never going to rise again.”
Mugabe’s ZANU-PF party won 158 parliament seats on July 31 versus 50 captured by the opposition Movement for Democratic Change that Mugabe accuses of receiving money and backing from Britain, the former colonial power, the United States and other Western nations.
One banner displayed at the event at the North Korean-built Heroes’ Acre shrine which was attended largely by thousands of Mugabe supporters showed the party’s clenched fist salute and declared: “July 31. The day we buried imperialism.”
Mugabe, in an hour-long address broadcast on state radio and television, said voters confounded the country’s Western critics.
“We are proving wrong those who say we are not able to conduct our affairs without outside interference,” he said.
MORE ON [SOURCE]