Mugabe accuses rivals of plotting coup
Harare - Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe accused his political rivals of trying to use constitutional reforms to get rid of him, but warned that his Zanu-PF party would reject any changes threatening its future, the Sunday Mail newspaper reported.
Mugabe, who turns 88 on Tuesday and was forced into a coalition government following disputed elections in 2008, is seeking to extend his 32 years in power in an early poll that he wants held this year, a year ahead of schedule.
In an interview with the state-owned newspaper, Mugabe charged that lawyers hired to draft a new national charter and rivals from Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) had "erred" by including issues not gathered from a public survey.
Asked about clauses in the first draft that could bar him from running for another term, Mugabe said although he had not yet read the document, such a proposal and the inclusion of gay rights would not be accepted by his party.
"The issue is that what is not the view of the people and not in the present constitution or has not been discussed, we will reject," he said.
"Such a constitution would be thrown out by Zanu-PF. We would not accept that. They erred if it is like that," he said, branding the MDC cowards for trying to exclude him from the polls.
A draft constitution published early this month trims presidential powers and limits terms to a maximum of 10 years, barring Mugabe who has been in office since the southern African country's independence from Britain in 1980.
Mugabe has been nominated as his Zanu-PF party's candidate and intends to run in an election he wants held in 2012. Under the power-sharing deal with Tsvangirai, elections must be held by next year with a new constitution drawn up ahead of the poll.
Mocked Tsvangirai and the MDC
A referendum on the new constitution is expected to be held later this year.
In the interview, Mugabe mocked Tsvangirai and the MDC as impotent for protesting his recent reappointment of security commanders accused by the opposition of blocking democratic reforms.
"We don't pay attention to that because they are like barking dogs with no bite, and every village has such dogs," he said in the local Shona language.
There was no immediate comment from the MDC on Mugabe's interview in which he also attacked Finance Minister Tendai Biti, a senior MDC figure, for slowing Zimbabwe's economic recovery by starving the key farming sector of funds.
"He makes some decisions and those decisions are not always of a nature that is promotive economically," he said.
In the past Biti has denied accusations that the MDC is deliberately withholding state loans to farmers from Mugabe's party who grabbed properties from white-owned commercial farms under Zanu-PF's controversial land redistribution programme.
Biti maintains that Zimbabwe's slow recovery from a decade of severe economic recession caused by Mugabe's policies is largely due to delays by Zanu-PF in adopting reforms.
Loss-making state firms
These include privatising loss-making state firms across the economy and a damaging drive to force foreign-owned firms to sell a majority shareholding to local blacks.
Mugabe told the Sunday Mail Zanu-PF had chosen him to continue because none of his potential successors in the party could win an election against the opposition.
He said eventually he would groom a successor but was not doing so now to avoid worsening divisions in Zanu-PF.
The interview made no mention of Mugabe's health despite regular local media reports that the veteran leader is receiving regular treatment for prostate cancer in the Far East.
Asked how he would like to be remembered, Mugabe said: "Just for what I am. A man, a lover of my people and a fighter of the oppressors of my people."