July 30 - Zimbabwe's frail economic recovery hangs in the balance as Robert Mugabe squares up to arch rival, Morgan Tsvangirai, in general elections. As David Pollard reports, the finance ministry has already warned that the polls are hitting growth.
The final round of rallies before Zimbabwe's general elections. The gloves are off as President Robert Mugabe slugs it out with rival, Morgan Tsvangirai. The battleground's not just political - but economic. Mugabe's rallying cry is decade-long sanctions. He says the US and its Western allies have cost Zimbabwe 42 billion dollars. SOUNDBITE: ZIMBABWE PRESIDENT, ROBERT MUGABE, SAYING (English): "They are surprised that Zimbabwe has not collapsed under the heavy weight of sanctions. We don't collapse, we will never collapse." There's no doubt that the health of most sectors - including the health service itself, brought to a standstill during 2008's elections - is taking a hit. Growth is expected to slow to 3.4 per cent this year from an expected five. Agriculture in this former breadbasket of southern Africa has plunged; mining is down too. And the man on the street is feeling the pinch. Philip Maphosa has seen what he earns from making reed furniture dwindle from four dollars a day. SOUNDBITE: PHILIP MAPHOSA, REED FURNITURE MAKER, SAYING (Shona): "People aren't spending because they're nervous about the unknown. Before people started talking about elections, our sales were better. At the moment I'm selling nothing.'' It can get better. At least, that's what the opposition says. Tsvangirai blames Mugabe's regime for the lack of foreign investment. SOUNDBITE: HEAD OF THE OPPOSITION MOVEMENT FOR DEMOCRATIC CHANGE (MDC) PARTY, AND PRIME MINISTER, MORGAN TSVANGIRAI, SAYING (English): "What we want to do is to build and not to destroy .... I am saying we should welcome investors, local and foreign, and not harass them, stop this racist position" But the key to preserving Zimbabwe's frail recovery may not be who wins the election, but how it's won. Political analyst Takura Zhangaza. SOUNDBITE: TAKURA ZHANGAZA, POLITICAL ANALYSTS, SAYING (English): "Even though there has been indications as regards the economy or foreign direct investment that perhaps the West is willing to talk and re-engage Zimbabwe on issues relating to the economy and investment, but the conditionality is that elections should be free and fair" There are plenty of accusations of electoral malpractice. But some see hope in a rare display of unity between the two men earlier this year. Together, they pushed a new constitution through a referendum. It trims the powers of the president and imposes a two-term limit. But it won't be retrospective, meaning 89-year-old Mugabe could, in theory, rule until he's 99 years old.