SADC urges rapid Zim poll result

Southern African leaders called on Sunday for the rapid release of results from Zimbabwe’s election after a two-week delay that has raised fears of violence.

Zambian Foreign Minister Kabinga Pande told reporters a 13-hour summit in Lusaka had also called on President Robert Mugabe to ensure that a possible run-off vote against opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai be held ”in a secure environment”.

The 14-nation Southern African Development Community (SADC) ”urged the electoral authorities in Zimbabwe that verification and release of results are expeditiously done in accordance with the due process of law”, said Pande.

The summit ran almost 10 hours over schedule and ended at about 5am local time. A senior Zambian official said earlier the delay was caused by a disagreement among leaders over whether the post-election impasse should be called a crisis.

But Pande, in response to questions, said: ”It is not a crisis at all.”

The regional leaders called on South African President Thabo Mbeki to continue his mission as chief mediator between Zimbabwe’s ruling Zanu-PF and the opposition following recent disputed elections.

”The summit congratulated and thanked the SADC facilitator, President Mbeki, and his facilitation team for the role they had played in helping to contribute to the successful holding of election,” a joint statement said.

”[The] summit requested President Mbeki to continue in his role as facilitator on Zimbabwe on the outstanding issue,” said the statement issued at the conclusion of the summit.

Mbeki said after meeting Mugabe on Saturday en route to the summit that there was no crisis. Mugabe did not attend the summit.


Human rights organisations and the opposition have accused Mugabe of orchestrating a systematic campaign of violence in response to his Zanu-PF party’s first defeat in a parliamentary election on March 29.

No results have been released yet from the parallel presidential vote, but Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) says he won outright and that Mugabe’s 28-year rule is over in Zimbabwe, where the economy has collapsed. Zanu-PF says neither Mugabe nor Tsvangirai won the necessary absolute majority and a run-off will be necessary.

In Harare, an electoral official said 23 out of 210 constituencies in the election would be recounted next Saturday, raising new uncertainty over the vote and the possibility that Zanu-PF could overturn its defeat in the parliamentary poll.

The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) official in Harare, who asked not to be named, said there would be recounts of the votes for both presidential and parliamentary polls in constituencies where there had been allegations of poll abuse.

The MDC has a two-seat majority in the Lower House of Parliament after the election, but the combined opposition tally totals 12 more than Zanu-PF.

The opposition has rejected both a recount and a run-off against Mugabe, accusing him of trying to rig his way out of defeat in the presidential election. The opposition and Western powers accuse Mugabe of wrecking the economy of his once-prosperous nation where many people have been reduced to misery by hyper-inflation of more than 100 000%, shortages of food and fuel and 80% unemployment.

Pande, reading a summit communiqué, said SADC had urged both sides to accept the outcome of the elections.

MDC spokesperson Nelson Chamisa said: ”We have already said that we will not accept any recount because for us that is accepting rigged results. They had custody of the ballot boxes for two weeks and they must have stuffed them with their votes.”

Zimbabwe’s High Court is due to rule on Monday on a MDC application to force the electoral commission to release the presidential outcome.

Zambian President Levy Mwanawasa, SADC’s current chairperson, called the summit because of regional concern over the impasse. ”SADC can no longer continue to stand by and do nothing when one of its members is experiencing political and economic difficulties,” he said in an opening speech.

Mbeki, who has consistently favoured a softer line with Mugabe, said the election process was proceeding normally. ”I wouldn’t describe that as a crisis,” he told reporters after his meeting with Mugabe in Harare.

”We have to wait for ZEC to release [the results],” said Mbeki, echoing Mugabe’s own stance on the unusually long delay.

Mugabe dismissed a remark by British Prime Minister Gordon Brown that the world was losing patience. ”If Brown is the world, sure, he will lose patience. I know Brown as a little tiny dot on this planet,” Mugabe said. — Reuters, AFP

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