/ 7 April 2008

Court postpones election ruling in Zim

A Zimbabwean court has postponed until Tuesday a ruling on the opposition’s legal bid to force the immediate publication of the March 29 presidential election results, lawyers said.

”The matter has been postponed to tomorrow,” opposition lawyer Alec Muchadehama told journalists outside the High Court in Harare.

The opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) wants the court to force the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) to end its delay and claims its leader, Morgan Tsvangirai, won an outright victory in the polls.

”The matter has not yet been determined; the matter will be decided tomorrow [Tuesday] in respect of points raised by the ZEC,” commission lawyer George Chikumbirike said.

The ruling Zanu-PF says there is no clear winner and has endorsed 84-year-old President Robert Mugabe to run in a possible second-round run-off.

‘Racial hatred’

Meanwhile, a Zimbabwean union on Monday accused the Zanu-PF of leading an ”apartheid” campaign against white farmers as it tries to win popular support for Mugabe ahead of the possible presidential run-off.

”At least 10 farms have been invaded in [southern] Masvingo, and from Shamva through to Centenary [in the north-east] at least five farms have been invaded,” Commercial Farmers’ Union president Trevor Gifford said.

”The situation is quite volatile. The police have intervened twice in Masvingo but they can’t do much about it since it’s state-sponsored and orchestrated from the highest office of the land,” said Gifford.

”People are being paid to basically carry out the wishes of the highest office. This is purely racial. We should be living in a country of harmony but the state media is pushing racial hatred, which is not good for the country.”

Mugabe intensified his land-reform programme after losing a referendum on extending his presidential powers in 2000. Then his loyal war veterans were at the vanguard of the often violent occupations of about 4 000 white-owned farms.

”Just like what happened in 2000, this is racial,” said Gifford, whose union predominantly represents white farmers. ”The farms which are being invaded belong to third-generation Zimbabwe, not British or American citizens.

”It’s another apartheid. It’s going to get out of hand if Southern African Development Community does not have a grip on it,” he said.

Gifford also warned that more invasions were expected to start in Mashonaland West province, north and west of the capital.

In further news, three Zimbabwean judges declined to hear an application on Monday for the release of two foreign journalists arrested for violating media laws, their lawyer said.

”Three judges have declined to hear the matter,” Beatrice Mtetwa told reporters outside the High Court, adding she would now look for another judge to hear the request.

New York Times correspondent Barry Bearak and a British reporter have been charged with covering Zimbabwe’s election without accreditation. Police arrested the journalists at their hotel on Thursday night. — AFP, Reuters