Mbeki must go, says Tsvangirai

President Thabo Mbeki must be relieved of his duties as mediator in the current impasse in Zimbabwe, Zimbabwean opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai said in Johannesburg on Thursday.

“The reasons are obvious. It’s nine years ... the crisis in Zimbabwe has been going on endlessly.
People are dying in Zimbabwe as we speak,” he told local and international media at a briefing in Sandton.

The Movement for Democratic Change leader (MDC) has approached Southern African Development Community (SADC) chairperson and Zambian President Levi Mwanawasa with a specific request for Mbeki to recuse himself and for SADC to take “extraordinary measures” to resolve the crisis in Zimbabwe.

Tsvangirai said it is time to recognise Mbeki’s efforts have proved fruitless.

“We want to thank President Mbeki for all of his efforts, but President Mbeki needs to be relieved of his duties,” he told reporters, adding: “I made a specific request to President Mwanawasa to say he needs to lead a new initiative, an initiative that will expand beyond that of Mr Mbeki.”

Mwanawasa hosted a weekend summit to debate the crisis in Zimbabwe where Mbeki is understood to have argued against making any public criticism of Mugabe in a final communiqué.

Tsvangirai said there have been “some attempts” to underplay the unfolding crisis in the Southern African country, and reiterated that his party had been victorious in the March 29 elections.

He also said Mbeki and the SADC have a “moral responsibility” to take extraordinary measures to resolve the crisis in Zimbabwe. “I know we are in an extraordinary situation in Zimbabwe and we need extraordinary measures,” he said.

The results of the March 29 elections have yet to be released, raising political tension in the country.

The ruling Zanu-PF, led by President Robert Mugabe, claims that neither Mugabe nor Tsvangirai won the election and that a run-off is necessary. The Zimbabwean Electoral Commission has called for a recount, while the MDC has rejected both a run-off and a recount.

The High Court in Harare has deferred until Friday hearing a legal bid by the MDC to stop a recount of ballots. The postponement, the second in a week, was agreed to by lawyers for the MDC and the electoral commission after the opposition filed a fresh petition seeking to nullify any new results that may arise from the vote recount slated for Saturday.

Violence

The United States ambassador in Harare, meanwhile, highlighted drastic punishments being meted out to people in rural areas just for having voted for the opposition. “We have disturbing and confirmed reports of threats, beatings, abductions, burning of homes and even murder, from many parts of the country,” said a message from ambassador James McGee.

Reports of violence have increased in recent days with a coalition of Zimbabwean doctors saying its members have seen and treated more than 150 patients who had been beaten and tortured since the elections.

The opposition claims at least two activists have been killed by Mugabe supporters and there have been other reports of unrest, including several invasions of white-owned farms.

For his part, Tsvangirai said that a United Nations war-crimes tribunal may be the only way to halt the violence. “I think the current wave of violence against the people must stop and the only way to stop is that those who are committing those crimes must know they will be answerable one day,” he said.

Pressure has been mounting on Mbeki to act on Zimbabwe.

Reports said that as he was about to address a crucial UN Security Council meeting on Wednesday in New York, a helicopter bearing a banner urging him to take stronger action hovered over the building.

Back home, the ruling African National Congress called for the Zimbabwean election results to be released and described the situation in that country as a crisis. This differed from a statement by Mbeki on Saturday that there was no crisis in Zimbabwe.

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice called on Africa to “step up” its role in defusing the political crisis in Zimbabwe. “It’s time for Africa to step up,” she told reporters. “Where is the concern from the African Union and from Zimbabwe’s neighbours about what is going on in Zimbabwe?”

Rice would not say whether Mugabe should concede defeat in the election, but accused him of harming his country in recent years with failed economic policies and repressive rule. “The last years have been really an abomination to a country that used to feed its neighbours and now it can’t feed itself,” she said.

She called on Zimbabwe to release the results. “The longer they hold the results of the election, the more suspicion grows that something is being plotted and planned by the ruling party.”—Sapa, AFP, Sapa-dpa

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