You will go to jail - Mugabe

HARARE - President Robert Mugabe came out guns blazing against both Zanu PF and the MDC parties yesterday, warning that police will deal decisively with perpetrators of violence ahead of polls.

Speaking to thousands of people gathered at the National Sports Stadium to commemorate the country’s 33rd independence anniversary, Mugabe said those caught fanning violence will be jailed.

Mugabe, whose 33-year rule has been blighted by episodes of violence, ordered police commissioner-general Augustine Chihuri to bring to book all perpetrators regardless of political affiliation.

“Chihuri reports every Monday telling us there is street fighting over party regalia with some not allowing others to wear their party uniform.

“We do not want that and we have ordered that mapurisa bamba lo faka lapa kujeri of course tinenge tichiti vatongwe (police should put them in jail and we want them tried).

“Zvinotinyadzisa kana kuchinzi vanhu veku Zimbabwe (We are embarrassed that Zimbabweans) 33 years after independence they are still not tolerating each other’s political differences. Those who fought for this country and gave us freedom never fought for political discrimination. I sit with Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai but we acknowledge that we belong to different political parties,” the Zanu PF leader said.

While an increasingly belligerent and partisan military top command has continued to declare it will not salute anyone without liberation war credentials, Mugabe demanded that the will of the people be respected.

“No one should be forced to vote for me or Professor Mutambara (deputy Prime Minister). People should be free to choose who they want to lead them.

“Let us gear ourselves to holding peaceful harmonised election and urge all our people to replicate the peace that prevailed during the constitutional referendum,” Mugabe said.

Mugabe’s arch-nemesis Tsvangirai, who attended the festivities with his wife Elizabeth, has demanded security sector reforms as a precursor to free and fair elections.

Since 2000 Tsvangirai has faced the might of state sponsored violence and in 2008 pulled out of a presidential run-off election race citing violence and murder in which he claims over 200 of supporters perished.

Immaculate in a grey suit, Mugabe inspected a guard of honour mounted by the military, police and prisons officers.

 “Zimbabwe is a sovereign state and we shall defend it with our blood” the parading serviceman shouted while an instrumental version of “Zanu will never lay down arms’ played in the background”.

However, it was Mugabe’s speech in Shona that captured the minds of many as he deviated from his prepared speech.

“Vatungamiri vezvikwata zvedu. Kana ndichireva vatungamiriri handisi kureva vekumusoro bedzi asi vekumaprovinces, districts nemabranches tinoda runyararo. Tinoda vanhu vaende kunovhota murunyararo.
“Kusarudzana kuri paviri tinotanga tasarudzana mumaparty edu ipapo panoita bishi rakakomba nekurwisana mumaparty pachawo asi tinenge tati vanenge vasarudzwa nevanhu ndivo macandidates anotimirira. (“All leaders at every level should make sure people vote in peace. There is fierce contestation and intra-party fighting for positions within),” he said.

“Iwe haungazvirove chifuva uchiti ini ndine business ndange ndichikubatsirai ndine zita remberi ndinosungirwa kukudzwa ndine kodzero yekumirira musangano upi zvawo muconstituency ino. Aiwa tinoda kuti zviitwe zvakanaka. Anenge asurudzwa ndiye wototsigira. Mangwana iwe wozosarudzwawo. Kozototi paelection chaiyo pakusarudzana kune bopoto mumaparty. (You cannot say because I am a businessman and have been funding you and I am known I have a right to stand for this party in this or that constituency. No, we want it done properly and respect the outcome of party processes. Let us give each other chances and wait for our turn),” said Mugabe.

He added that healthy political competition will allow people to choose freely.

“Our image is tarnished by reports even by a small incident in Mabvuku or at the hostels in Mbare that someone has been hospitalised, we are ashamed,” he said.

Zimbabwe’s only leader since independence from Britain in 1980 attacked political leaders who distribute food aid to poor citizens along political lines.

“This independence is for all of us even the little ones, it is theirs also; they should walk proud because it is our country, all of us. Nobody should die of hunger because they do not belong to our party or die of Aids or malaria. Even those that have brought the disease upon themselves because of loose behaviour should be treated equally.

“We differ ideologically, but people should be given a chance to choose what they want or prefer. There is none of us who do not know, after 33 years, what politics means and what the parties in the country stand for.

“We pride ourselves in being the most educated on the continent but our knowledge should not be in books only. We should show it in the choices we make, particularly in choosing the good and bad in the knowledge that some things are bad for our image to the outside world,” said Mugabe.

Analysts argue that at 89, the former guerrilla leader known for his bombastic rhetoric and pouring vitriol on opponents of his regime, has mellowed with age.

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