HARARE, Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe refused Tuesday to give into pressure from Africa and the West, saying the world can "shout as loud as they like" but he would not cancel this week's runoff election even though his opponent quit the race.
South Africa's ruling party issued a toughly worded statement calling on Mugabe's government to stop "riding roughshod" over the opposition headed by Morgan Tsvangirai, who quit the presidential contest and sought shelter in the Dutch Embassy.
The African National Congress also warned against international intervention following a report in the Times of London that Britain has drawn up contingency plans for deploying troops in Zimbabwe to resolve a humanitarian crisis and to evacuate British nationals and their dependents.
"A lasting solution has to be led by the Zimbabweans and any attempts by outside players to impose regime change will merely deepen the crisis," the ANC said.
It singled out Britain, the colonial power when Zimbabwe was still Rhodesia, saying it had not followed through on pledges to help fund efforts to put more land in the hands of black Zimbabweans. Britain has cited concerns about corruption.
Campaigning Tuesday, Mugabe was defiant a day after the U.N. Security Council voted unanimously to issue a strongly worded statement condemning violence against the opposition and saying it made a fair poll impossible. The statement won support from South Africa, China and Russia, which have previously blocked such moves.
Mugabe, a vigorous 84, kicked a soccer ball before thousands of cheering supporters and declared he would not back down.
"We will proceed with our election, the verdict is our verdict. Other people can say what they want, but the elections are ours. We are a sovereign state, and that is it," Mugabe said.
"Those who will want to recognize us on the basis of objectivity will do so. Those who don't, keep your judgment to yourselves. Our people are going to vote, and that vote will decide whether we have won or lost."
"They can shout as loud as they like from Washington or from London, or from any other quarter. Our people, only our people, will decide, and no one else," the Zimbabwean leader said.
Mugabe's plan to go ahead with Friday's vote appeared to stem less from a desire to validate his rule than to humiliate Tsvangirai.
Tsvangirai "is frightened of the people," Mugabe told the crowd. "He ran and sought refuge in the Dutch Embassy. ... Seeking refuge from what? Nobody wants to harm him."
In pulling out of the race Sunday, Tsvangirai said an onslaught of state-sponsored violence against his Democratic Movement for Change made competing in the runoff impossible.
The party said Tuesday that the chairwoman of one of its provincial branches was the latest victim when she was attacked and seriously injured by Mugabe loyalists in a northern region that has seen some of the worst violence.
The party also said the rural home of its national organizing secretary was attacked Tuesday by Mugabe loyalists in military uniform. The party said the official's 80-year-old father was beaten and two other relatives were shot in the legs.
George Sibotshiwe, a spokesman for Tsvangirai, said the politician had received a tip that soldiers were on the way to his home Sunday, when he announced he was pulling out of the runoff.
Sibotshiwe would not reveal the source of the tip, and said the soldiers' intentions were unclear.
But "the moment you have soldiers coming your way, you just run for your life," Sibotshiwe said. "The only way he can protect himself is to go to an embassy."
Sibotshiwe was speaking in Angola after fleeing Zimbabwe earlier in the week. He said he saw armed men approaching a safe house where he had been staying in Zimbabwe and feared arrest.
Other opposition officials were also in hiding, among them Tsvangirai's campaign manager, Sibotshiwe said, adding that officials were no longer working out of the party's headquarters in Harare for fear of arrest.
Tsvangirai told the Dutch national broadcaster NOS radio Tuesday that the Dutch ambassador had spoken to the Zimbabwean government and received assurances there was no threat. Tsvangirai said he might leave the embassy Tuesday or Wednesday.
But the U.S. ambassador to Zimbabwe, James McGee, said Tsvangirai should be wary of government assurances and that violence was escalating against the opposition as election day approaches.
"There's really nothing that we can do in the international community to stop these elections," McGee told reporters, adding that the embassy expected Mugabe militants to force voters to go to the polls Friday, and to attack anyone who does not.
McGee said the Southern African Development Community, and South Africa as a leading member of that bloc, should speak out with words as "firm and as hard-hitting" as Monday's U.N. Security Council statement.
Zimbabwe's neighbors may have more influence than the U.N., McGee said, adding that Zimbabwe is a landlocked country and vulnerable to actions such as border closings.
"Regional bodies have tremendous influence," McGee said. "There are so many things that could be brought to bear, that could have a tremendous, immediate impact on the government of Zimbabwe."
Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade, who has been trying to broker an agreement, said Tuesday that South African President Thabo Mbeki was trying to persuade Mugabe and Tsvangirai to share power in a transitional government with Mugabe as president and Tsvangirai as prime minister.
Wade was also proposing that Tsvangirai take a position junior to Mugabe's, but not that the coalition be considered merely transitional.
Neither proposal appeared to have been embraced by the rivals Tsvangirai has insisted he be president and Mugabe have no role.
The Times of London report said Britain had drawn up two separate contingency plans for military action, one to resolve a humanitarian crisis and the other to evacuate British nationals. The Ministry of Defense said it has no current plans for deploying troops, but declined to discuss whether contingency plans had been drawn up.