In Zimbabwe, more public backing for rebel Makoni

Other News Materials 3 March 2008 02:07 (UTC +04:00)

Edgar Tekere, who was expelled from Zimbabwe's ruling party for penning an unflattering portrait of President Robert Mugabe, on Sunday threw his weight behind rebel ex- finance minister Simba Makoni's bid for the presidency this month. ( dpa )

Tekere, a former minister in Mugabe's cabinet, appeared with Makoni at his campaign launch rally at the historic Zimbabwe Grounds stadium in Harare's Highfield suburb, state television reported.

Tekere was expelled from the Zimbabwe African National Union- Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) last year after his autobiography was published by Ibbo Mandaza, a key strategist in Makoni's camp. Also present at Makoni's rally was Fay Chung, a former education minister under Mugabe who worked for the United Nations after she left government.

Tekere and Chung are among just a few political heavyweights who have publicly backed Makoni, who shocked Mugabe and many Zimbabweans when he announced he would stand against the 84-year-old leader in the March 29 election.

On Saturday, Dumiso Dabengwa, a former home affairs minister, announced he was part of a "team" backing Makoni. Dabengwa is the most senior ZANU-PF politician yet to defect to the Makoni side.

There have been claims Makoni has yet more senior ZANU-PF backers, including Vice President Joyce Mujuru and her husband, Solomon, but the country's other vice president, Joseph Msika, attempted to quash these rumours on Friday.

Makoni, 57, is spearheading his campaign under the theme of a "New Dawn."

Reports say he has encountered problems trying to get his campaign off the ground. Plans to hire vehicles for campaigning reportedly fell through.

State television late Sunday showed Makoni in an open-necked shirt addressing a crowd with his high-profile backers on a stage behind him. Also supporting him is Wilson Khumbula, the president of small opposition party ZANU-Ndonga.

The former finance minister now has the support of two opposition parties: a breakaway faction of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) and ZANU-Ndonga.

ZANU-Ndonga's stronghold is in the southeastern Chipinge district. The MDC factions support base is in southern Matabeleland, and the second city of Bulawayo.

The former finance minister will also be standing against main opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai, who narrowly lost to Mugabe in the last presidential polls in 2002.

Tsvangirai's main support base is in the urban areas, where Makoni's strategists claim he should garner 90 per cent of the vote.

At the launch, Makoni blasted what he termed the "gross abuse of state enterprises" by Mugabe's government and vowed to weed out those who have acquired multiple farms under Mugabe's controversial land reform programme, according to the report on state television.