CHITUNGWIZA, Zimbabwe (AFP) – Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe forged ahead with a campaign to extend his 33-year rule Tuesday, lashing out at his perennial foe, ex-colonial power Britain, for political meddling.
"Right now in Britain they are saying there is no peace in Zimbabwe, just imagine," Mugabe said to thousands of residents in Chitungwiza township, 25 kilometres (15 miles) southeast of Harare.
"With the way you are sitting, no-one forced you to come here at gun point."
"That is why I told them that you keep your England and we keep our Zimbabwe," Mugabe said, repeating remarks made at a UN summit held in South Africa in 2002.
"Zimbabwe should never be a colony again," Mugabe who has ruled the southern African country since independence from Britain in 1980, told the cheering supporters.
Britain has not made any major public comments on developments in Zimbabwe in recent months.
But early this year its envoy to Harare, Deborah Bronnert, lamented the administration's decision to prevent Western observers from monitoring the upcoming vote.
Mugabe, 89, spoke for more than an hour at a stadium packed with thousands of activists waving caps and t-shirts emblazoned with his portrait.
It was a deliberate finger in the eye to his rival Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party, who considers the area a stronghold.
He lashed out at Tsvangirai and the MDC-run local government councils saying they had failed to deliver basic services like water.
"This is the most populated township across the country and if people do not have water supplies, no water to flush toilets. What do you want people to do?" Mugabe said.
There are an estimated 1.5 million people living in Chitungwiza, a township created in the late 1970s.
"On the 31st July, your vote is the only weapon you have to fight what you don't like."
Mugabe faces a stiff challenge from long-time rival Tsvangirai in the watershed July 31 vote after four years in a powersharing government that was formed after disputed and violent polls in 2008.