ZANU PF has never rigged elections, President Robert Mugabe said on Tuesday as he hailed his supporters for remaining peaceful ahead of general elections on July 31.
Mugabe – addressing his biggest crowd this election season at the Aerodrome Grounds in Mutare – hit out at critics of Zimbabwe’s election preparations, insisting that the country is capable of holding "good elections".
“We’re now a mature people. We’re not having elections for the first time. Some people elsewhere thought we were starters, we're not political starters,” Mugabe said to loud cheers from the gathered thousands, all given free party regalia.
He went on: “We’ve held elections before, good elections. We’ve never had rigged elections. MDC people say we are rigging; but that’s politics. They know for certain we don’t rig elections. Never ever!”
Last week, media reports claimed an Israeli company, Nikuv International, had been hired to rig elections in Mugabe's favour. The company has been running computerisation programmes for several Zimbabwe government departments since 2000 and denies any involvement in the alleged plot.
With just over a week before Zimbabwe holds its first vote since a June 2008 presidential run-off which was marred by violence targeting supporters of MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai, the Zanu PF leader said he had been impressed by his supporters’ observance of his call to canvass in peace.
“Let’s observe peace, let’s be united in our party but that unity must be based on recognising that there are other groups also that have their own programmes,” Mugabe said in an address also carried live by ZBC TV and radio.
“We remain convinced that our programme is number one, but this is a contest, not war. Peace begins with me, peace begins with you, peace begins with all of us,” he said.
Mugabe's aides said the Mutare crowd was probably his biggest rally since he launched his re-election campaign, with some estimating the crowd at over 25,000 people.
Zanu PF has a lot of ground to cover in Manicaland after losing 20 of the 26 House of Assembly seats to the MDC-T in the March 2008 general elections.