Opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai yesterday said President Robert Mugabe should throw in the towel because he has failed to revive the economy.

Addressing a bumper crowd in Epworth in Harare, the former premier said he will not waste time on expelled secretary-general Tendai Biti but 90-year-old Mugabe, who he said had vandalised the national economy.

He reiterated his call for a multi-stakeholder national dialogue on the economy and also growing concerns about the aged president's health — key in driving national programmes.

He called for a convention of churches, civics, unions and political parties to formulate a response to the deepening economic crisis, adding he had an eight point plan to get the county working again.

"I don't want to say much about these guys (MDC rebels) because I feel pity for them. I won't be distracted by opportunists who stand for nothing. My eyes are fixed on baba Chatunga (Mugabe) because he has failed to run the country and we believe it's a matter of time before he comes to us for negotiations," Tsvangirai said.

Analysts say what is needed now is pressure on the government to change course and open negotiations with opposition leaders, something that has since been dismissed contemptuously by the ruling party.

And with the next scheduled elections four years away, Tsvangirai said there is need to reach a consensus beyond parochial party interests.

But the opposition leader, who is struggling to contain disunity in his own party appears to have little leverage and analysts say it is time for Zimbabwe's neighbours to use their influence, before the chaos becomes uncontainable.

"We don't want a second unity government but this time we want a convention that comprises of churches, civics, unions and political parties and we map a roadmap," Tsvangirai said. "In that roadmap, we will tell Mugabe to go and rest because he is no longer relevant.

"To get the economy working again is not a problem, but the problem is people who don't want to leave office. We have an eight-point plan to get the country out of the quagmire that it is in. First, Mugabe has got to come to us for negotiations because he is clueless about the economy. Mugabe must come to the negotiation table because his ZimAsset is not working.

"How can you have policy that is not backed by money? When ZimAsset was launched, we were told that their friends from Malawi would help fund it and we have seen no money coming. Even their friends, the Chinese, refused to give them money saying where is the diamond money? Where are the billions that you borrowed?"

Tsvangirai said the convention must also deal with electoral reforms that will lead to free and fair elections.

"The second matter in the eight-point plan is that the government should initiate reforms because we don't want to go to elections with Nikuv and the military running elections. We will also look at education and health," Tsvangirai said.

The former prime minister said he would not use violence to get Mugabe out of office.

"Do you want us to take guns and remove Mugabe violently? I have refused this and said I don't want blood on my hands and we will follow the democratic way to remove the dictator," he said.

Turning to the MDC rebels, Tsvangirai tore into Biti and his camp, branding them "opportunists." Talk of a coalition between Biti and other opposition parties does not bother him, saying the alliance was doomed ab initio.

"I said to them (MDC rebels) come and let us fight baba Chatunga who has killed the economy and they decided to leave us," Tsvangirai said. "They can go and form a united coalition of disgruntled and failed politicians who hate Tsvangirai with a passion. A coalition of people with malice and hatred will never succeed.

"I used to think that (Elton) Mangoma stood for something and we have discovered that he stands for nothing. We used to think that Biti stands for something and we have discovered that he is concerned about power, his ego and opportunism."

The former trade unionist said he was not power hungry and was ready to relinquish his position if he is voted out of power at the October extraordinary congress.

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