'Vote Mugabe', officers told

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Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe denounced his opponents as charlatans and witches as he launched his election manifesto yesterday and promised to give stakes in foreign-owned mines to locals.

Zimbabwe is in the grip of severe economic crisis, with inflation at 100,000 percent, but the opposition's failure to unite behind a single candidate has strengthened the 84-year-old's chances of re-election on March 29.

Mugabe faces former ally Simba Makoni, standing as an independent, and Morgan Tsvangirai, a long time rival of the main opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).

"Let the people's voice thunder across the whole country, rejecting once and for all the British stooges, the political witches and political prostitutes and the political charlatans," Mugabe told supporters.

"This is the official start of our march to another election victory ... We certainly are going to win, it is the margin we are trying to build," he said.

Critics accused Mugabe of wrecking Zimbabwe's economy, but he blames Western sanctions for the world's highest inflation rate, high unemployment and shortages of fuel, food and electricity.

Mugabe said his government would boost agricultural production by continuing to equip those farmers who had benefited from his seizure of white-owned farms to resettle landless blacks.

He also promised to build more roads and schools and to equip collapsing public hospitals, which have been strained by high numbers of people suffering from the HIV/AIDS pandemic.