Harare, Zimbabwe – On the eve of Zimbabwe’s first election since he was forced out of power, former President Robert Mugabe said he will not vote for his successor, Emmerson Mnangagwa of the ZANU-PF. 

“I cannot vote for those who have tormented me. I can’t,” the 94-year-old said on Sunday in his first live appearance since being pushed out of power by a military intervention in November 2017. 

“I can’t vote for ZANU-PF. I can’t vote for those in power. I can’t vote for those who brought me into this state,” said Mugabe, who spent 37 years in office. 

“I will make my choice among the other 22 presidential candidates,” he said. 

Pressed by the gathered reporters on who he will vote for on Monday, Mugabe said Nelson Chamisa of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) was the only viable option on the ballot.

Mnangagwa, Zimbabwe’s current president and leader of the ruling ZANU-PF party, was a close aide of Mugabe and a former vice president. He was fired days before the army’s intervention after he fell out with first lady Grace Mugabe.

The former leader said the military’s intervention in November was wrong, adding that the country of 16 million has become less democratic since his removal from power.

“We have had, since November, an environment in our country which is far from being free, even politically, let alone constitutional and legal,” Mugabe said.

“We have become savages, terrorists to ourselves. Those tanks that rolled through across the country, who were they fighting?” 

Mugabe not on ballot 

More than five million Zimbabweans have registered to take part in the first election since 1980 without Mugabe’s name on the ballot. 

Twenty-three candidates, 19 men and four women, are running for the country’s top seat – all first-time contenders. 

Mnangagwa and Nelson Chamisa, of the MDC alliance, are seen as the top two contenders.

The latest polls show a close race between 75-year-old Mnangagwa and 40-year-old Chamisa.

If no candidate wins more than 50 percent of the vote, a runoff will be held on September 8.

Polls will open 7am local time (05:00 GMT) and close at 7pm (17:00 GMT). The results are expected to be released by Saturday. 

Follow Hamza Mohamed on Twitter: @Hamza_Africa

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