Zimbabwe’s former president Robert Mugabe, who was ousted in November, made a surprise intervention Sunday on the eve of the country’s election, saying he would not vote for his successor Emmerson Mnangagwa in the elections due tomorrow.
In his first live appearance since being thrown out of power, Mugabe, 94, spoke slowly but appeared in good health sitting in a blue-tiled pagoda outside his sprawling luxury mansion in an upmarket suburb of Harare.
Mr Mugabe wonders why people ask who is his choice is but will not rather ask who is not his choice. “I will not vote for those who have illegally taken power,” Mr Mugabe said, speaking to the nation for the first time since stepping down in November this year.
Zimbabwe goes to the polls Monday in its first election since Mugabe was forced by the military to resign after 37 years in power, with allegations mounting of voter fraud and predictions of a disputed result.
President Mnangagwa, Mugabe’s former ally in the ruling ZANU-PF party, faces opposition leader Nelson Chamisa of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) in the landmark vote for the southern African nation.
Mr Mugabe said Mr Chamisa, “seems to be doing well at his rallies”, adding “whoever wins, we wish him well…and let us accept the verdict.”
The current president, and Mr Mugabe’s successor, Mr Mnangagwa, has positioned himself as a reformist, inviting back election observers and pledging a free and fair vote.
Mr Chamisa, of the MDC Alliance, uses humour at his rallies to inspire hope of economic opportunities. At 40-years-old, until November, Mr Chamisa had not known Zimbabwean politics without Mr Mugabe, and could be the country’s youngest president.
The 94-year-old ruled Zimbabwe for 37 years, following emancipation from white minority rule in 1980. Mr Mugabe now calls for a democratic constitution and the people’s freedom to speak.
“I have during all this time liked our return to conditionality, our return to legality, an environment in which our people are free,” Mugabe told reporters.
The former President blamed his removal from office on “evil and malicious characters”, and added, he resigned to avoid “bloodshed”.