Mar. 2 - Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe rallies his party ahead of elections at his lavish 89th birthday party. Rough Cut (no reporter narration).
ROUGH CUT (NO REPORTER NARRATION) STORY: Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe on Saturday rallied his ZANU-PF party for an electoral victory in polls expected later this year, which would extend his 33-year grip on power. Addressing a party rally to mark his birthday, Mugabe, who turned 89 last week, denied accusations by the rival Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) of Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai that ZANU-PF had launched a violent campaign around the southern African state to win the presidential and parliamentary polls. Mugabe, who has ruled Zimbabwe since its independence from Britain in 1980, has become a pariah in the West, blamed for running a once-prosperous country into the ground, massive human rights abuses and violent and rigged elections to keep his hold on power. The veteran ruler, in turn, accuses the West of plotting his ouster as punishment for his seizure, since 2000, of white-owned commercial farms to resettle land less blacks. Mugabe was forced to share power with Tsvangirai's MDC four years ago after violent and disputed elections in 2008. Africa's oldest leader and one of its longest-serving, Mugabe has been endorsed as his ZANU-PF party's candidate in elections expected in July despite concerns over his health and advanced age.