Zimbabwe election: Mugabe turns on Mnangagwa in surprise pre-poll speech
HARARE (BBC): 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.
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.”
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”.
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.
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.