Mugabe demands vote recount as 'war veterans' arm for battle

Zimbabwe's ruling party has demanded a recount of votes in the country's presidential election, a move dismissed by the opposition as a tactic calculated to buy more time for Robert Mugabe as he arms his militant supporters for a "war" aimed at winning any run-off vote.

The 84-year-old President's revived "war veterans", the footsoldiers of the farm seizures he orchestrated between 2000 and 2002, invaded at least five of Zimbabwe's few remaining white-owned commercial farms yesterday.

"This is just a warm up. The real thing is coming soon," one militant was heard shouting as one property's owners were driven out and livestock and equipment taken away.

"I've got one farmer and his wife with two young children, and people banging on windows, ululating and beating drums and telling them to vacate the farm" in the northern town of Centenary, the Associated Press reported Hendrik Olivier, the head of the Commercial Farmers' Union, as saying.

The Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe is understood to be printing 500 trillion Zimbabwe dollars to pay the veterans and get them ready to fight for a Mugabe victory in the run-off. "A lot of blood is going to be shed. All those cronies who lost their parliamentary seats are also urging him [Mr Mugabe] to stay on ... It's a mess," said one source in Harare.

Yesterday's editions of the pro-Mugabe Sunday Mail newspaper quoted a letter from a Zanu-PF lawyer to the country's electoral commission calling for a recount because of "errors and miscalculations in the compilation of the poll result".

But the opposition, the Movement for Democratic Change, which claims that its leader, Morgan Tsvangirai, won an outright majority in the presidential election, said it was illogical to demand a recount since eight days after the poll, no official results from the presidential election have been released.

On Saturday, Mr Tsvangirai accused Mr Mugabe of "preparing a war on the people". His party, the MDC, is resisting a run-off. As the MDC lodged a High Court application to have the results of that vote released, sources said that two senior generals, Constantine Chiwenga, head of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces, and Perence Shiri, the Air Force commander, were instrumental in Mr Mugabe's decision on Friday to come out fighting after days of speculation that he might step down. General Shiri led a crack troop unit that massacred more than 30,000 civilians to entrench Mr Mugabe in power in the early 1980s. "Chiwenga and Shiri have told Mugabe that giving up won't help because they will proceed to stage their threatened coup anyway," said a senior Zanu-PF source who cannot be named for security reasons.

It is also understood that Grace Mugabe last week urged her husband to release his grip on power and move the family to Malaysia, where the couple bought a holiday home three years ago. The President's wife, who has withdrawn more than £5m from the central bank over the past five years for her foreign shopping jaunts, could no longer stand the stress associated with Mr Mugabe's efforts to cling to power, sources said. "She fears the entire first family could be assassinated. I doubt though that her word has any weight on Mugabe because no one takes her seriously," said another Zanu-PF official.

The decision to demand a recount of the votes is regarded as a delaying tactic while Mr Mugabe gets his act together. Even the actual run-off could be postponed by up to 90 days if "Comrade Bob", as the President is known, felt he was not ready.

Mr Tsvangirai has appealed to the United Nations and to African leaders to intervene to "prevent chaos and dislocation". But with regional leaders unlikely to intervene, hopes that Zimbabwe will change course are fast dimming. The South African President, Thabo Mbeki, said at the weekend that it was "time to wait and see" what would happen in a run-off.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Clinical Lead / RGN

£40000 - £42000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: IT Sales Consultant

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT support company has a n...

Recruitment Genius: Works Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A works engineer is required in a progressive ...

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Hire Manager - Tool Hire

£21000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Our client is seeking someone w...

Day In a Page

Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent
Markus Persson: If being that rich is so bad, why not just give it all away?

That's a bit rich

The billionaire inventor of computer game Minecraft says he is bored, lonely and isolated by his vast wealth. If it’s that bad, says Simon Kelner, why not just give it all away?
Euro 2016: Chris Coleman on course to end half a century of hurt for Wales

Coleman on course to end half a century of hurt for Wales

Wales last qualified for major tournament in 1958 but after several near misses the current crop can book place at Euro 2016 and end all the indifference