"I can't vote for Zanu-PF. I can't vote for the people who have brought me into this state," said the 94 year old who ruled Zimbabwe for almost four decades before resigning in November amid the threat of a military takeover and impeachment."I must say clearly I cannot vote for those who have tormented me. I can't. I will make my case among the other 22 [out of the 23 candidates]," said a frail-looking Mugabe in a rare public appearance from his mansion in the capital Harare.The former president, slouched in his chair and often mumbling during the almost two-hour long event, said Nelson Chamisa of the Movement for Democratic Change Alliance would instead get his vote in Zimbabwe's first general election since his resignation last year.Mugabe added that had not met Chamisa. "I met his late leader [Morgan] Tsvangirai, we worked together at that time. But him and any other persons in his alliance, I have not met. Definitely not. I wish to meet him if he wins," he told reporters.Asked how it felt heading to a polling station and not having his name on ballot, Mugabe said, "That's the reality, it's painful, but that's the reality."
A rare appearance
Mugabe helped found the Zanu-PF party in the 1960s, ruling the country for 37 years from independence from Britain in 1980 until resigning in November. His successor and presidential candidate is Emmerson Mnangagwa, the man who Mugabe fired as his deputy only weeks before his resignation, while also attempting to have his wife Grace appointed as the new president. Since then, Mugabe has rarely seen in public, instead spending his time between Singapore, where he is receiving medical treatment, and his plush 25-room Blue House residence in Harare.Sightings of his wife, nicknamed "Gucci Grace" for her love of a lavish lifestyle, have become similarly scarce.That was until Sunday, when Mugabe gave a news conference in which he accused President Mnangagwa, his party and the army of creating a Zimbabwe that is "far from being free.""I have during that time, during all this time cried for return — our return to constitutionality, our return to legality, our return to freedom for our people and environment in which our people will be free," said Mugabe, who during his own time in power was criticized for ruling Zimbabwe with an iron fist and overseeing hyper-inflation that crippled the economy.Asked how it felt heading to a polling station and not having his name on ballot, Mugabe said, "That's the reality, it's painful, but that's the reality."Results of Monday's general election are expected by Saturday, as the country's constitution requires the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission to release results within five days of the closing of polls.Correction: This story has been updated to remove several quotes that were inadvertently misattributed to Fareed Zakaria.
Columbus S. Mavhunga reported from Harare, Mahatir Pasha reported from London and Sheena McKenzie wrote from London. Anna Cardovillis contributed to this report from Nairobi.