Mugabe: 'We'll fight for our power'
PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe has vowed to fight like a "wounded beast" to retain power in Zimbabwe in elections due next year.
His party formally endorsed him as its candidate on Saturday despite his age and reports of ill health.
Mugabe, who will be 89 in February, has ruled the former British colony since independence in 1980 but denies he has been receiving treatment for prostate cancer in Singapore for the past two years.
Closing a two-day Zanu-PF annual conference that, as expected, named him as its top candidate in a presidential and parliamentary poll that must be held by September, Mugabe urged his party to overcome the rival Movement for Democratic Change of Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai.
Mugabe - who shares power with T svangirai in an uneasy coalition following a disputed election in 2008 marred by violence blamed on Zanu-PF militants - said his party had nearly lost power by underestimating its rivals.
"We are now like a wounded beast, and let's fight back and win all our power back," he said to a 5000-strong crowd.
"We must mobilise ourselves for a resounding outcome and the year 2013 will be the year of electoral success," he said.
But Mugabe said Zanu-PF should win next year's vote on its nationalist policies, urging party supporters to avoid violence.
"We do not have to take up spears. Let our policies be our weapons," he said.
On Friday, Mugabe threatened to call an election before the completion of constitutional reforms if his rivals in the unity government dragged their feet in the charter-drafting process.
Zanu-PF, he said, would press ahead with its drive to force foreign-owned firms, including mines and banks, to sell majority shares to local blacks.
Tsvangirai said Zanu-PF would not win a free and fair election, and wants a new constitution, and electoral and media reforms, after the disputed poll in 2008 .
But Finance Minister Tendai Biti, secretary-general of the MDC, told Reuters that Zimbabwe would not be ready for a presidential election until at least June because it needed the reforms enacted to ensure a fair and undisputed poll.
Zanu-PF and the MDC are haggling over presidential powers in the new constitution.
Mugabe has accused his opponents of delaying tactics to avoid elections.
Mugabe showed no signs of ill health at the two-day conference, spending more than an hour at a time addressing both the opening and closing ceremonies.
Analysts say Mugabe's increasingly frequent warnings that he will call elections soon is meant to keep his supporters ready for battle, but some senior Zanu-PF officials have cast doubt on this timeline, given that a referendum on a new constitution must precede an election under the power-sharing deal.
Though Mugabe has been calling for a peaceful election, his opponents fear Zanu-PF hardliners led by "war veterans" and youth brigades, who usually run his campaigns, will be tempted to resort to violence as the tried and tested method of ensuring victory.