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Zimbabwe Opposition Leader Calls for National Healing - 2002-01-31

Zimbabwe's main opposition candidate for president, Morgan Tsvangirai, says Thursday current political conditions in the country prevent any prospect of a free and fair presidential election, as both Mr. Tsvangirai and Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe officially registered Thursday to run in the March election. The Movement for Democratic Change leader says the country is what he calls "fast sliding into anarchy and chaos."

At a news conference Thursday, after officially declaring his nomination for the presidential polls on March 9 and 10, Mr. Tsvangirai called for an end to the violence and said the country needs a process of national healing. "It is sad that the future of the country appears to be sacrificed on the altar of short-term political expediency through a sustained campaign of violence and terror," he said. "For our part we reiterate our call for non-violence."

The MDC leader says Zimbabwe's 13 million people are what he calls 'yearning for a return to peace.' "They want the looming food shortages, which have seen three million people registering for food aid and nearly 600,000 people living on the brink of starvation, addressed," said Morgan Tsvangirai.

The government had no immediate response to Mr. Tsvangirai's charges or his announcement for the presidency, but earlier on Thursday, Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa accused Britain, the United States and the European Union of trying to overthrow the government and return the country to colonialism.

Mr. Chinamasa also said the MDC, and not the government, was responsible for the violence that has claimed more than 50 lives in the past year and led to thousands of people being tortured and beaten up.