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Zimbabwe Opposition Leader to Take Part in Runoff Against Mugabe

Zimbabwean opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai says he will take part in a presidential runoff against the incumbent, Robert Mugabe. Peta Thornycroft reports, the runoff became necessary after the Zimbabwe Election Commission determined Tsvangirai did not get more than 50 percent of the vote.

Morgan Tsvangirai announced his decision Saturday in Pretoria, South Africa, saying he would return soon to his homeland to take part in the runoff.

But he also laid out several conditions. He called for the cessation of all violence, the presence of South African Development Community (SADC) peacekeepers and access for international observers and media. He added that the runoff should take place no later than May 24, according to Zimbabwean electoral law.

Tsvangirai has been in South Africa since shortly after the election, during the five weeks it took for the Zimbabwe Election Commission to announce the presidential results.

The leader of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) maintains he won an outright victory in Zimbabwe's March 29 presidential election. The electoral commission says, while he won the most votes, he fell short of a majority.

Many independent analysts and Zimbabwe lawyers accuse the Commission of being biased in favor of Mr. Mugabe and his party, ZANU-PF, which narrowly lost its parliamentary majority in the elections.

Tsvangirai said in Pretoria, Saturday, that, instead of joy at the Movement For Democratic Change's victory, Zimbabweans had endured confusion, pain, death and despair as a result of what he said was a violent onslaught against the people by ZANU-PF.

He said Mr. Mugabe has turned his back on the people of Zimbabwe and on Africa and that he has sullied his legacy as Zimbabwe's liberator from colonialism.

Tsvangirai said the violence against people who did not vote for Mr. Mugabe and are now being punished, was a breach of Zimbabwean and international laws.

He said he knew that another election will bring more violence, but he said it could also deliver a final knock out to Mr. Mugabe, the last round he said, in a very long fight for Zimbabweans to liberate themselves from the former liberator.

Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa told journalists in Harare that the runoff would be held in terms of Zimbabwe law, but he did not give any indication when the election would take place.