SHAMVA, Zimbabwe (AFP) — President Robert Mugabe will never vacate his office for opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai even if he loses a run-off election next month, the Zimbabwean leader's wife said Thursday.
Grace Mugabe told followers of her husband's ZANU-PF party that Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) would not be allowed to take power under any circumstances.
"Even if people vote for the MDC, Morgan Tsvangirai will never step foot inside State House," she said after meeting victims of political violence that has rocked
"He will only get to hear about what it looks like inside State House from people who have been there. Even if Baba (Mugabe) loses, he will only leave State House to make way for someone from ZANU-PF."
The 84-year-old president, who has ruled the former British colony since independence in 1980, is to square off against Tsvangirai on June 27 after an inconclusive first round.
Tsvangirai fell just short of an outright majority on March 29 needed to avoid a run-off, although the MDC wrested control of parliament from ZANU-PF in a legislative poll that took place at the same time.
Grace Mugabe, who is 40 years Mugabe's junior, accompanied her husband to the rural area of Shamva, northeast of
"What we saw really touched us. We are not animals but humans. If you burn down someone's house you want to destroy their live," the president said.
"We want to warn the MDC they should stop immediately this barbaric campaign of burning and destroying people's homes."
While Mugabe has laid the blame for post-election violence at the feet of the MDC, the United Nations and human rights groups say that ZANU-PF has been responsible for the lion's share.
The MDC says more than 50 of its supporters have been killed by pro-Mugabe militias since March 29, and tens of thousands displaced, as part of a campaign of intimidation designed to ensure victory for Mugabe on June 27.
In his address to supporters, Mugabe acknowledged that the country -- which currently has the world's highest rate of inflation -- was going through tough times but he said food shortages were not the fault of his government.
"There might be grievances about prices, food shortages and non-availability of basic commodities. These are being caused by sanctions and food shortages are a result of drought." he said, adding that recent purchases should alleviate the situation.
"We have bought a lot of maize from our neighbouring countries. What we have so far is 600,000 tonnes which was paid for."
A one-time regional breadbasket,
With inflation running at over 165,000 percent, shops that do manage to find supplies increase their prices several times a day.
Mugabe and his inner circle have been subject to a limited package of Western sanctions since he allegedly rigged his re-election in 2002.