/ 6 April 2008

MDC presses court for Zim election result

Zimbabwe’s opposition went to court on Sunday to try to force the release of presidential election results after President Robert Mugabe’s party called for a delay and a recount.

The Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) says its leader, Morgan Tsvangirai, has won the vote and should be declared president, ending 28 years of uninterrupted rule by Mugabe.

But no results have emerged from the vote eight days ago and state media said on Sunday the ruling Zanu-PF had asked the electoral commission to delay announcing the outcome pending a recount.

The MDC said a recount would be illegal and the government was planning violence to stay in power.

Mugabe suffered his first election defeat when Zanu-PF lost control of Parliament in the March 29 elections.

”Legally they have no right to ask for a recount, they have absolutely no footing to ask for a recount, so what they are trying to do is illegal,” said MDC secretary general Tendai Biti. ”It’s madness, literally and metaphorically.”

After two delays since Saturday, the High Court on Sunday began hearing an application by MDC lawyers to force the electoral commission to release the outcome of the vote.


On Saturday, Tsvangirai accused Mugabe of ”preparing a war on the people”.

A group of militant liberation war veterans, often used as political shock troops by Mugabe, have re-emerged to back him.

Zimbabwe state radio reported the war veterans had threatened to occupy all white farms in Masvingo province after reports that their original owners were returning to land seized by the government after 2000.

The re-emergence of the war veterans, who led a wave of violent occupations of white farms as part of a government land-redistribution programme, increased fears Mugabe’s supporters would try to intimidate opponents ahead of any run-off.

The state-owned Sunday Mail said Zanu-PF had rejected an opposition offer to form a unity government. The MDC said it had made no approaches to the ruling party.

”That’s nonsense. That’s absolutely nonsense, we won this election under extremely difficult circumstances. The only thing that worries us is the violence and the war that they have unleashed on the people of Zimbabwe,” MDC spokesperson Biti said.

Former colonial ruler Britain and the United States, both of whom have applied sanctions on Mugabe and his top officials, have criticised the election delay and suggested it could be the precursor to a rigged result.

Mugabe’s government is widely accused in the West of stealing previous presidential and parliamentary elections, and his removal is regarded by Washington and London as necessary to rebuilding Zimbabwe’s shattered economy.

Zimbabweans are struggling with inflation of more than 100 000% — the highest in the world — mass unemployment and chronic shortages of meat, bread, fuel and other basic necessities.


Meanwhile, Zimbabwe’s former finance minister, Simba Makoni, may have come a distant third in the presidential election, but he could emerge as the kingmaker in the aftermath of the bitterly-contested poll.

Makoni (58) quit the Zanu-PF to mount his challenge against Mugabe and Tsvangirai, but unofficial results put him a distant third in the March 29 vote.

”Obviously he will be a kingmaker. Either of the two will need Makoni,” said Professor Eldred Masunungure, a political expert at the University of Zimbabwe.

Makoni is thought to have played a ”spoiling” role in the presidential battle so far, winning enough votes to prevent his rivals from passing the 50% mark needed for outright victory.

But this could change if indeed the duel for the presidency goes to a run-off: analysts believe his supporters will hold the balance of power.

”In the second round, he is becoming the ultimate winner, playing the role of an influential factor on who wins,” said Joseph Kurebga, a political scientist expert and colleague of Masunungure.

In an apparent bid to spruce up his electoral machinery, Makoni’s camp announced plans on Saturday to form a political party, after he stood as an independent in the presidential elections.

”We will be formalising our movement into a fully fledged political party,” his spokesperson, Denford Magora, said.

For the parliamentary polls, Makoni entered a loose alliance with a splinter faction of Tsvangirai’s MDC and a host of independent candidates.

The MDC faction garnered just 10 of the 210 parliamentary seats, while Tsvangirai’s main bloc took 99 and Mugabe’s Zanu-PF 97.

Makoni’s movement is widely expected to back Tsvangirai in the event of a run-off with President Mugabe, but his spokesperson said nothing had yet been finalised.

”No decision has been made as to who we will back as we are still awaiting results of the presidential elections.” — Reuters, AFP