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By Lindie Whiz

ZIMBABWE’S presidential election stand-off can only be resolved through dialogue between the main parties, and not a second round of voting, former Zanu PF politburo member and ex-cabinet minister Dumiso Dabengwa has said.

Dabengwa, who broke ranks in March to support Simba Makoni’s bid for the presidency – caused a stir last Friday when he turned up for Independence Day celebrations at White City Stadium and took his position in the VIP section where he sat next to Governor Cain Mathema and Information Minister Sikhanyiso Ndlovu – two men who denounced him as a sell-out for backing Makoni.

Independence celebrations are routinely used as campaign platforms by the ruling Zanu PF party, and opposition officials are not welcome. Coincidence or design, the
ex-minister was clad in a maroon floral shirt and a cream pair of trousers, the same attire he wore on March 1 when he broke off from Zanu PF during Makoni’s rally at the same venue.

Almost a month since Zimbabweans voted in general elections, they are still awaiting the results of the presidential poll. President Robert Mugabe has dug in amid claims by the MDC that it won the election. Mugabe’s officials have revealed that the party is preparing for a run-off – a suggestion that neither Mugabe, opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai nor Makoni got the majority of votes cast to be declared winner.

Dabengwa, talking to reporters, said it was “mission accomplished” that neither Mugabe nor Tsvangirai had won outright.

He added: "I said on March 1 that we wanted to rescue Zimbabwe from falling into the wrong hands, and I am glad we achieved that. If there is anyone who can't see that, then I don't know.

“We are told none of the presidential candidates managed the required 50 percent of the total vote to win the presidency. Imagine what would have happened if Kusile (Makoni’s campaign platform) was not there. We rescued Zimbabwe and we are proud of that.”

Dabengwa said “the worst might come out” if a second round of voting was called between the two candidates with most votes – thought to be Mugabe and Tsvangirai, according to estimates by independent election monitoring groups.

"I don’t think a run-off can help the situation at all,” he said. “We have up to now managed to conduct ourselves properly. The worst might come out if a run-off is called.”

The opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) says at least 10 of its supporters have been killed in post-election violence, and the party fears an escalation of the crackdown if a run-off goes ahead as Mugabe desperately clings on to power.

Dabengwa said what was required was a coming together of all the major parties in a government of national unity with a clear timetable of when a new election would be held. He appeared to exclude Mugabe from such a structure.

"None of the parties has a majority in parliament,” Dabengwa observed. “Even if they win the presidency, how will they change legislation and move the country forward? What we need is to sit down and dialogue as Zimbabweans from all parties, in a spirit of mutual respect and good faith, and agree on the way forward and form a government of national unity. We need a transition period in the interim, and then hold elections when everything is settled down… when it is clear what direction the country must take.”

Dabengwa, who lobbied unsuccessfully within Zanu PF for President Mugabe to stand down and be replaced by a younger leader, said the 84-year-old leader’s apparent failure to win a majority vindicated that position.

He said: "I will repeat what I have always said. Our leadership has played their part and are now old. They must leave the job to the next generation. Our country is facing difficulties and needs people with more energy to solve them. Our time is up."

Dabengwa insisted he "never defected from Zanu PF", adding: “Does telling someone the truth that they are old constitute rebellion? I was born in the struggle, grew in it and will die in it."

But the former Home Affairs minister said he did not believe in the change represented by opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai. He referred to the former trade unionist as “a Chiluba”, reference to the former Zambian leader Fredrick Chiluba who was sprung into power by a trade union movement but failed to turn around the country’s economic fortunes. He was eventually pushed out of power and charged with embezzling over US$40 million.

If Tsvangirai had won, Dabengwa said, “whites would be running around and celebrating". Mugabe accuses Tsvangirai of being a puppet of former colonial power, Britain.

Dabengwa said Zanu PF had made good progress in improving the lives of Zimbabweans after Independence, but that was now in danger of being eroded by a failing economy.

He said: "The problems started when we took our land and the powerful white countries put us under sanctions. This has tended to reverse all our gains. There are no teachers and materials at schools, there are no nurses, doctors and medicines, just to illustrate the situation. What we need now is new leadership to take us out of this situation.”

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