Mugabe's challenger promises land reforms
By Peta Thornycroft in Harare and Sebastien Berger in Johannesburg
Last Updated: 1:48am GMT 14/02/2008
Simba Makoni, the former ally of Robert Mugabe who is to challenge him in elections next month, has launched a withering attack on the Zimbabwean president's management of the country.
He vowed to unravel the land reforms that have left millions short of food.
Launching his manifesto, Mr Makoni, 57, said: "The Zimbabwe of today... is a nation full of fear, a nation in deep stress, a tense and polarised nation, a nation also characterised by disease and extreme poverty."
A highly regarded former finance minister, he added: "However we believe that solving these problems will not be intractable."
If elected, he promised to "institute a process of national healing and reconciliation".
Mr Makoni was expelled from the ruling Zanu-PF party on Tuesday.
He will stand as an independent candidate in the joint presidential and parliamentary elections on March 29.
He urged other members of the ruling party to join him in the quest to prevent the 83-year-old president from winning a sixth term in office.
Senior figures in Zanu-PF are believed to be supportive of Mr Makoni, but are waiting to assess his prospects before sacrificing the benefits associated with Mr Mugabe's patronage.
Conscious of the perils of taking on Mr Mugabe at the ballot box, Mr Makoni said: "Let this not be a contest of fists, a contest of stones, knives and guns, but let it be a contest of ideas, a contest of vision and commitment to the people.
"No one is worth killing for, nor dying for, not Mr Mugabe nor Simba Makoni."
Zimbabwe began its descent into economic crisis and chronic food shortages when Mr Mugabe almost lost elections in 2000 to the newly founded opposition party, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), led by Morgan Tsvangirai.
He began to confiscate 90 per cent of farms in white ownership, the backbone of the economy.
Mr Makoni, who bought his farm before Mr Mugabe started to allocate seized land to regime loyalists, said that Zimbabwe needed land reform more urgently now than ever.
He said that seizure of land to redress the wrongs of the colonial era alone did not represent agrarian reform.
Fay Chung, the first education minister after independence, who is credited with beginning Zimbabwe's extraordinary surge in literacy, said yesterday that she would stand for parliament for Mr Makoni's new movement.
He is also building support in the business community and has reached a deal with a breakaway faction of the opposition that will allow him to run as the unopposed challenger in the south.
But Mr Tsvangirai yesterday ruled out giving Mr Makoni a clear run at the presidency.