Tsvangirai in SA for private meetings

Zimbabwe’s opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai visited South Africa on Monday for private meetings in his first foreign trip since the March 29 presidential election, a party official said.

“He is attending private meetings and going back this evening,” said Roy Bennett, a spokesperson for Tsvangirai’s opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC). He refused to be drawn on the purpose of the trip.

Ronnie Mamoepa, spokesperson for the Department of Foreign Affairs, told the Mail & Guardian Online: “It is private meetings, so we do not know who he is meeting and where. You have to call the MDC.”

He added: “The president and minister for foreign affairs are not in the country, so he cannot be meeting them; if he was, we would be able to tell you.
We do not know.”

The visit by Tsvangirai, who has declared himself the outright victor of last week’s presidential poll, comes as MDC lawyers await the outcome of a legal bid to force the official declaration of the poll results.

The ruling Zanu-PF says there is no clear winner and has backed President Robert Mugabe to win a sixth term in a second-round run-off as well as demanding a complete recount of the original vote.

Tsvangirai’s MDC won control of the country’s Parliament in simultaneous legislative elections, but Zanu-PF is contesting enough seats potentially to overturn that result.

The electoral commission is due to give its judgement on the opposition’s legal bid later on Monday.

Petition

Meanwhile, about 200 Zimbabwean exiles gathered at the Union Buildings in Pretoria on Monday to hand over a petition to President Thabo Mbeki regarding their country’s election.

Simon Mudekwa, president of the Zimbabwe Revolutionary Movement, said the protesters felt that the delay in releasing the presidential election results was not democratic and that Mbeki needed to put pressure on Mugabe to release the poll results.

“We want an urgent release of the election results. We cannot wait any longer,” he said.

Mudekwa said Mbeki had the power to influence Mugabe into accepting that he had been defeated. “He [Mbeki] needs to say that what he [Mugabe] is doing is not in line with the law. We need to force him to admit that he was defeated [in the election],” he said.

The petition was signed by members of the youth movement and Zimbabwe’s civil society.

Mudekwa said police were threatening to arrest the protesters as the gathering had not been sanctioned.

“They are saying we need permission from the police. We are not leaving this place until we hand over our petition. They say they are going to arrest us. No problem. We’re not leaving, we’ll be sleeping here,” he said.

Pretoria police could not immediately be reached for comment.—Sapa

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