/ 9 April 2008

Zuma speaks out against Zim election delay

African National Congress leader Jacob Zuma on Tuesday criticised the delay in declaring the results of Zimbabwe’s presidential election.

Zuma, the front-runner to become the next president of South Africa, indicated that ”keeping the nation in suspense … keeping the international community in suspense” was wrong.

”I don’t think it augurs very well,” he said in an interview with South African Broadcasting Corporation news.

Zuma was speaking the day after he met Morgan Tsvangirai during the Zimbabwe opposition leader’s first foreign trip since the election.

Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) won control of the Zimbabwean Parliament for the first time in the March 29 polls, but the outcome of the simultaneous presidential election is still to be declared.

Tsvangirai has claimed outright victory, but the ruling Zanu-PF says there is no clear winner and has endorsed President Robert Mugabe to run in a possible second-round run-off vote as well as demanding a complete recount.

The Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) and the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) on Tuesday demanded that the Zimbabwean presidential results be announced.

”If there is a clear winner, that winner must form a government. If there is no winner, the election must be rerun, with an increased number of international and local observers”, said ZCTU general secretary Wellington Chibebe.

The two trade-union federations met in Johannesburg on Tuesday.

The ZCTU told journalists during a press briefing in Braamfontein that it and other civil society formations were under ”intense pressure” from their constituencies to initiate protest action in the face of the refusal of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) to announce the presidential election results.

The union federation said its leadership was aware that such protests might be what Mugabe was praying for because it would give him an excuse to declare a state of emergency and rule by decree. ”For that reason we are urging all our members to remain calm.”

When Chibebe was asked what he thought about President Thabo Mbeki’s statement that the situation was manageable in Zimbabwe, he said the statement was rather unfortunate. ”People have suffered enough, we want everyone else to compel the ZEC to announce the results,” he said.

Chibebe declined to reveal what his organisation would do if the ZEC did not announce the results after its demand.

The ZCTU said the Zanu-PF saw the presidential results and ”leaned” on the ZEC to release only the parliamentary and senate results in a bid to buy time and prove that Tsvangirai had received less than 50%, so that a run-off would be necessary.

”It is of public knowledge now that Tsvangirai won the presidential elections. It’s only that nobody has a right to declare him the winner other than the ZEC.”

Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi called on the ZEC to release the results. He said people of Zimbabwe cannot afford the uncertainty around the issue any longer. ”If people believe they have no other option, they would be go for violence. That’s a frightening thought because we do not want another Rwanda or Kenya.”

Vavi echoed Chibebe’s view that Mbeki’s statements on the Zimbabwe situation were unfortunate.

”Statements that the situation was ‘manageable’ and that we should ‘wait’ were sending a message to Mugabe to sit and do whatever to the results. We want the results to be announced now, and nobody should interfere with the will of the people,” Vavi said. — Sapa, AFP