Comrades NO more

MUTARE - Edgar Tekere, the first of Robert Mugabe's top lieutenants to break ranks and take him on at the ballot box, is convinced that the Zimbabwean leader will never allow himself to lose an election.

MUTARE - Edgar Tekere, the first of Robert Mugabe's top lieutenants to break ranks and take him on at the ballot box, is convinced that the Zimbabwean leader will never allow himself to lose an election.

"Every election Mugabe has been cheating," Tekere, 70, said at his home in Mutare.

"He boasts that 'I have degrees in violence'. He might as well boast that 'I also have so many degrees of cheating elections'."

Mugabe, 84, and Africa's oldest leader, is being challenged at national elections on Saturday by opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai and his former finance minister Simba Makoni.

Tekere quit Zanu-PF and stood for president in 1990.

He said Mugabe's comments that a vote for the opposition would be a waste showed that the president could no longer pretend to be a democrat and was effectively committing treason with such remarks.

"He called for an election as head of state ... and there he is undermining the whole spirit of an election, is that not treason?" he said.

Tekere finished a distant second to Mugabe in 1990.

In the 1970s, the two men crossed the border into Mozambique on foot to launch the liberation war against the whites-only regime of Ian Smith in the former Rhodesia.

Tekere warned Mugabe in 1983 that he was driving the country towards the precipice. A few years ago he said that Zimbabwe's democracy was in the intensive care unit. Now he says it could be dead and buried.

"The leadership has gone rotten, very corrupt, down to the core. Is it not time to say that if he is the leader of the corrupt, he is the chief plunderer?" he said.

Asked what went wrong in a country once considered a model of post-colonial democracy, he said he did not know.

"I honestly have not puzzled out what went wrong with Mugabe. This is not what we fought for." - Sapa-AFP

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