Zimbabwe?s main opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) has welcomed calls by former South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu for international peacekeepers ahead of the election run-off next month. Tutu said the deployment of international peacekeepers would help prevent violence during the presidential run-off. The opposition MDC accuses President Robert Mugabe?s ruling ZANU-PF of using violence to intimidate its partisans in rural areas to ensure victory for the ruling party. But the ruling party dismissed the accusation and blamed the opposition for conniving with enemies of Zimbabwe to force a regime change.

The government warned the MDC that any act to subvert the country?s constitution by forcing a regime change is treasonous. From Harare, MDC international affairs secretary Eliphas Mukonoweshuro tells reporter Peter Clottey that the ongoing violence is detrimental to free and fair elections.

?It is quite clear that with the level of violence at the present moment, it would be difficult for people to express their political opinion without interference. Therefore, the MDC will support any effort from whatever international quarter to ensure that voting takes place under free and fair conditions in the context of peace,? Mukonoweshuro pointed out.

He concurs that it would be an enormous challenge for the MDC to do well in the election run-off with the scale of the ongoing violence.

?It would be extremely difficult to consider elections held in such a violent condition as legitimate and bringing about a legitimate expression of the people?s wishes. So, it is not a matter of what Mr. Mugabe and his political party wishes to see. I think the international community must insist that elections must be held in the contest of peaceful conditions,? he said.

Mukonoweshuro said the ruling party has always denied election victories to the opposition party.

?The MDC has been defeating the ruling party since 2000, but the votes have been stolen. And what the vice president (of the opposition MDC) has been saying is that we will repeat the same experience again. We will defeat ZANU-PF. We are saying to the international community to assist us in guarding the people?s vote,? Mukonoweshuro noted.

He said with international pressure, incumbent President Mugabe would hand over power to the opposition if the ruling party loses the run-off.

?Mr. Mugabe would have no choice if the international community monitors the election and the MDC wins again. So, we are saying to the international community the time has come to ensure that the charade that is going on in Zimbabwe comes to a stop,? he said.

Mukonoweshuro urged the regional SADC (Southern African Development Community) body to help with the calls on deploying poll observers from the international community ahead of the run-off.

?We are appealing to SADC? we are saying that SADC must ensure that this process is brought to its logical conclusion,? Mukonoweshuro noted.

He said the opposition MDC is well prepared to win the run-off.

?We are very, very prepared. Our structures are ready to go, but they are being destroyed by the violence that is meted out by the ZANU-PF,? he noted.