Tsvangirai assassination claim a fantasy - Zanu PF
"The allegations by the (Morgan) Tsvangirai-led MDC have no foundation whatsoever except in his own dreams," Nathan Shamuyarira, spokesman for the ruling Zanu PF, was quoted by the state-run Herald newspaper as saying.
"He is dreaming things that are not existent in Zimbabwe. No one in Zanu PF or the government has any intention of killing him," he said.
"The problem with Tsvangirai is that his statements are directed at big powers in Europe and North America in an attempt to influence them to give him more money and support."
After opposition leader Tsvangirai refused to return home at the weekend over fears for his safety, his number two Tendai Biti claimed on Monday that he was one of dozens of top figures in the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) who were on a hit list.
"It's one of those wild claims that we have come to expect from Biti. There was never and will never be such a plot. It's just madness," deputy information minister Bright Matonga told AFP.
"No one in his right mind would draw up such a list which would mean eliminating the entire MDC leadership. The majority of the MDC national executive purportedly targetted ... are still in this country."
Tsvangirai is due to square off against veteran leader Mugabe in a run-off election on June 27 after narrowly failing to win an outright majority in a first round held on March 29.
But his failure to return home to campaign has damaged his credibility and chances of toppling Robert Mugabe, analysts said.
Tsvangirai, who has been away for six weeks on a mission to build up diplomatic pressure against Mugabe, indefinitely postponed his homecoming at the weekend citing an assassination plot, allegedly hatched by the country's military.
But commentators say that regardless of the danger he may face, Tsvangirai's absence has raised awkward questions about his leadership credentials with a run-off election due in less than six weeks and of his own willingness to put his safety on the line at a time when many of his supporters have been beaten.
"If he doesn't come back he will be demonstrating that he is fearful of Mugabe, therefore, he is less of a leader than Mugabe and that will have very serious implications on his qualities as a leader," said John Makumbe, political scientist at the University of Zimbabwe.
Bill Saidi, a veteran journalist and deputy editor of the independent Sunday paper, The Standard, said the impression created by his self-imposed exile is that the opposition leader is more concerned about his own safety than that of his supporters who have been at the mercy of the Mugabe camp.
"That is not heroism at all. If you are in a struggle ... and if you are not in front to back your people, then you weaken the struggle," said Saidi.
Mugabe's former information minister Jonathan Moyo, now an independent lawmaker and political commentator, said Tsvangirai was damaging his reputation as someone prepared to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with his people.
"It's not about losing or winning the run-off, but his credibility as a national leader who is able to be with the people," said Moyo.
"All national leaders are under daily security threat but they don't allow those threats to shape their agenda.
"You can't wish to be president of Zimbabwe by remote control. Each day he spends out of the country is very costly to him."
Nelson Chamisa, chief spokesperson for Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party, tried to gloss over his prolonged absence, saying questions should be asked of Mugabe and his regime rather than the opposition.
"The issue is about violence and the killing of people and the pressure should be put on the Zanu-PF regime to end the violence. The regime is on the rampage," said Chamisa.
The MDC says 43 of its supporters have been killed in an upsurge of violence since the original polling day and 5,000 families have been displaced from their homes.
However Eldred Masunungure, a political science professor at the University of Zimbabwe, said Tsvangirai's decision to stay abroad at such a crucial time was "ill-advised and very damaging".
"Once you decide
to get into politics you should be prepared to take risks. You should
not be like a general who abandons his troops at a crucial moment,"
said Masunungure. - Sapa/AFP
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