/ 2 May 2008

Mbeki to brief religious leaders on Zimbabwe

President Thabo Mbeki was to brief a group of African religious leaders on the situation in Zimbabwe on Friday, his spokesperson said.

The briefing would focus on his mediation efforts, but it ”may touch on current issues”, said Mukoni Ratshitanga.

He did not give more details about the briefing.

Mbeki would host the 15 religious leaders at the Presidential Guest House at 1.30pm.

Various religious leaders have, since the election, expressed concern over the situation in Zimbabwe, and over delays in talks and the release of election results.

”The South African Church leaders will also be calling — through the church organisations in Africa and Southern Africa — for tougher negotiating measures from the AU [African Union] and the UN [United Nations] in order to produce a speedy settlement to the apparent political stalemate in Zimbabwe,” the South African Council of Churches said in a statement last week.

Church leaders in Zimbabwe warned that rising violence could reach genocidal levels in that country.

This comes as deadlocked party talks hosted by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission resumed on Friday.

Agence France-Presse reported that election officials said at the first day of the closed-door meeting on Thursday that opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) leader Morgan Tsvangirai had won 47,8% of the March 29 poll and President Robert Mugabe had won 43,2%.

The MDC claims it won 50,3% of the vote, making a run-off election between it Tsvangirai and Mugabe unnecessary. – Sapa