Zimbabwe's president said on Monday he wants his people to be tolerant of each other's views to allow for a free vote in proposed elections.
President Robert Mugabe, officiating at the state burial of a former foreign minister, said political differences must be private and "not expressed in actions" that lead to violence. He called on Zimbabweans to follow the "virtues and discipline" of academic and veteran diplomat Stan Mudenge, who died Oct. 4 of heart failure at age 71.
"Let people vote the way they want to. Those who don't want to vote can throw their vote into the river. It's their business," Mugabe said.
Mugabe's remarks followed harsh criticism by Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai over the weekend about the presidential party's record of violence. Tsvangirai, in a shaky coalition government, described Mugabe as a hypocrite for "preaching peace by day" while his ZANU-PF party loyalists attacked opponents at night.
"We have politicians who shed crocodile tears like Mugabe," Tsvangirai said at a rally in the Zaka district, where his former opposition Movement for Democratic Change party has reported the country's worst upswing in political violence in recent months.
Tsvangirai said on Saturday he was giving Mugabe an ultimatum to end the violence or he would pull out of the coalition and elections planned for next year. He said he won't "step on dead bodies" to get elected as the country's president. Tsvangirai said elections can only be held when long-disputed constitutional and democratic reforms are in place and the rule of law is enforced.