JOHANNESBURG May 22 – Zimbabwe opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai said Thursday he would return home this weekend after nearly a month and a half out of the country despite fears of an assassination plot.,
Speaking during a visit to a violence-hit township in Johannesburg, he told reporters that he would return home on Saturday to begin campaigning ahead of a run-off election against veteran President Robert Mugabe scheduled for June 27.
He also linked the violence against immigrants in South Africa to the crisis in his homeland, where inflation is the highest in the world at 165,000 percent and employment runs at 80 percent.
"The causes for this crisis are none other than our political crisis back home," said the former trade union leader as he visited Alexandra, a slum area in northern Johannesburg where anti-immigrant violence began last week.
"If things were ok at home there would be no need for us to be here. I’m hoping we are able to solve the crisis back home."
Between one and three million Zimbabweans are thought to live in South Africa after fleeing the economic meltdown in their country, where basic commodities such as fuel and food are now rare.
Tsvangirai has been out of Zimbabwe since shortly after a first round of elections on March 29 and has twice announced his intention to return only to delay the move.
Last weekend he pulled out of a trip back at the last moment citing an assassination plot against him.
His party’s number two, Tendai Biti, claimed on Monday that Tsvangirai was one of dozens of top figures in the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) opposition who were on an army hitlist.
"They have been killing our people since 1980 and now Mugabe’s military intelligence has compiled a list of 36 to 40 people to be assassinated," he told AFP during a visit to Nairobi.
The government denies the allegations.
Tsvangirai beat Mugabe in the first round of presidential elections in March but not by enough to secure an outright victory.
The aftermath of the elections has been marked by delays and political violence, with followers of Mugabe’s ZANU-PF accused of conducting a campaign of terror against MDC supporters in rural areas.