Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe vows to step down if defeated

The BBC's Nomsa Maseko was the journalist who asked Mr Mugabe if he would step down if he loses the election

Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe has said he will quit after 33 years in power if he loses Wednesday's election.

"If you lose you must surrender," the Zanu-PF party leader said.

His remarks came as Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party accused Zanu-PF of doctoring the voters' roll.

Zanu-PF denied the accusation, saying it was the responsibility of the electoral commission, which released the roll only on the eve of polls.

The BBC's Farayi Mungazi in the capital, Harare, has seen the document and says it features the names of thousands of dead people.

Some names also appear twice or three times with variations to their ID numbers or home address.

Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) has not commented on the allegations.

Nomsa Maseko reports on the final stages of campaigning in Zimbabwe

'Sharing tea'

Mr Mugabe, 89, will be facing Mr Tsvangirai, 61, in the presidential ballot.

The two long-time rivals have been sharing power since 2009, under a deal brokered by the regional bloc to end conflict that marred elections in 2008.

At a press conference at State House in the capital, Harare, Mr Mugabe told journalists that he and Mr Tsvangirai had learnt to work together and could even share a pot of tea.

Responding to a question from the BBC, the president, who was in a jovial mood, said he would step down if he lost and insisted that there had been "no cheating".

Zimbabwe election: Key facts

  • About 6.4 million registered voters
  • Polls open at 05:00 GMT and close at 17:00 GMT
  • Vote for president and parliament
  • Zanu-PF's Robert Mugabe and MDC's Morgan Tsvangirai are the main contenders
  • Mr Mugabe, 89, is seeking to extend his 33-year rule
  • Mr Tsvangirai, 61, hopes to become president after two failed attempts
  • The poll ends the fractious coalition between Zanu-PF and MDC, which was brokered by regional mediators after disputed elections in 2008 that were marred by violence

But the MDC has said the electoral roll released on Tuesday by Zec dates back to 1985 and is full of anomalies.

"You cannot have a voters' roll given to you less than 24 hours before an election," Jameson Timba of the MDC told the BBC's Focus on Africa programme.

"The voters' roll in itself is in total shambles. We've got a good number of duplicate names," he said.

"You'll find that a person is registered twice - same name, same date of birth, same physical address and a slight change is made to that person's ID number."

Zanu-PF's Bright Matonga denied allegations of vote-rigging, saying the MDC had played a part in the compilation of the electoral roll.

"Zec is comprised of political appointees from both political parties," he told the BBC.

Exile returning

Mark Lowen meets Zimbabweans living in South Africa preparing to return home to vote

He accused Finance Minister Tendai Biti, who is also the MDC's secretary-general, of not properly funding the electoral commission.

"There's no document that you can say is clean or very accurate. It will have anomalies. So if you don't release funds on time then you can't blame anyone except yourself," he said.

Last week, Mr Biti accused diamond companies, some of them government-owned, of failing to remit dividends to the treasury, which has been a long-standing complaint of his during his tenure as finance minister.

Three other candidates are also standing for president and voters will also be electing news members of parliament.

Polls are opening up at 05:00 GMT and closing at 17:00 GMT.

Bulawayo-based journalist Thabo Kunene told the BBC that many Zimbabweans have been returning home to vote from South Africa where they work.

Taxis and buses carrying the exiles continued to arrive in the southern city on Tuesday afternoon, he said.

In Bulawayo's oldest township of Makhokhoba, MDC and Zanu-PF campaign teams met amicably at one house during their door-to-door campaign - waving each other's flags - a sign that some Zimbabweans have matured and no longer believed in violence, he added.

In 2008, Mr Tsvangirai pulled out of run-off vote, accusing pro-Mugabe militias and the security forces of attacking his supporters after he gained most votes in the first round.

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