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‘Mugabe ready to quit’

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Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai has told his New Zealand counterpart John Key he is confident President Robert Mugabe will step down if he loses the forthcoming elections, media reports said on Wednesday.

Tsvangirai, who is in New Zealand, said Mugabe had been prepared to step down in 2008 after he lost to the MDC-T leader in the first round of the presidential elections but changed his mind following pressure from securocrats.

Mugabe went on to run unchallenged in the June 27, 2008 presidential runoff poll where Tsvangirai was forced to drop out of the race because of violence blamed on security forces.

The MDC-T says hundreds of its supporters were killed and thousands others displaced by security forces who wanted to keep the 88-year-old Zanu PF leader in power.

“I do not see any reason why he (Mugabe) should plunge the country again into another dispute,” Tsvangirai told Key.

“I think he is committed, for his own legacy and the legacy of the country, to move forward and he has to accept the result if it is conducted in a free and fair manner.”

But Tsvangirai’s party this week accused soldiers of harassing its supporters as part of an intimidation campaign ahead of the elections. Several army generals came under fire recently after they made public statements vowing to reject any leader who beats Mugabe in elections.

Zimbabwe Defence Forces boss General Constantine Chiwenga, Major-General Martin Chedondo, Major-General Trust Mugoba, Major-General Douglas Nyikayaramba and Zimbabwe Republic Police Commissioner-General Augustine Chihuri have also made it clear they would not accept a Tsvangirai victory.

Mugabe was endorsed by the last Zanu PF conference in Bulawayo as the party’s presidential candidate in elections he wanted held this year.

The previous day Tsvangirai had told his Australian counterpart Julia Gillard that there is too much obsession with Mugabe as a stumbling block to a smooth transfer of power in Zimbabwe.

The PM has been pushing the two countries to ease the sanctions they imposed on the veteran ruler and his inner circle in recognition to the progress made by the inclusive government.

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