Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe vowed to go ahead with an election run-off Friday in the face of accusations that he would win 90 percent and receive a mandate about as meaningless as that which Saddam Hussein once enjoyed.
Addressing his last rally before polls open for the surreal one-horse race, Mugabe told supporters that he would be magnanimous in victory and willing to talk with the opposition.
"Should we emerge victorious, which I believe we will, sure we won’t be arrogant, we will ... say 'Let's sit down and talk,' and talk we shall," he told the crowd on the outskirts of Harare. "So there it is, let the MDC reject it or accept it. We will continue to rule this country in the way we believe it should be ruled. This is an African country with responsible leaders."
The renewed offer from Mugabe came in spite of the insistence of Morgan Tsvangirai that the time for talking would be over if the election went ahead. In an interview from his hiding place at the Dutch Embassy in Harare, the opposition leader told the Times that as soon as Mugabe declared victory he would become the illegitimate leader of Zimbabwe.
"And I will not negotiate with an illegitimate leader," he said.
Mugabe's willingness to proceed without opposition even prompted President Bush earlier this week to describe the elections as "a sham."
Zimbabweans, many of whom work far from home, were returning to their villages and townships Friday night after receiving threatening summonses from the ruling Zanu (PF) to report before the vote. Farm workers in Chegutu, southwestern Zimbabwe, said that they had been told to arrive at polling stations at 6 a.m., an hour before voting begins, and stay there until after the results were posted.
"If there is one MDC vote they will find that person and cut off his or her head," Ben Freeth, a white farmer quoted his workers as telling him. "'It is a serious threat' were the words that they used to tell me."