/ 7 May 2008

African ministers meet Mugabe over political crisis

A high-ranking delegation of Southern African ministers met Zimbabwe leader Robert Mugabe on Wednesday to discuss the country’s political impasse ahead of a pending presidential run-off, state media reported.

Two ministers and a top official from the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) met Mugabe in Harare, where they urged him to take part in the presidential re-run but insisted that the law must be observed.

The delegation was headed by Angolan Foreign Minister Jose Joao Bernardo Miranda, who is in charge of the SADC ministerial troika on politics and security.

”The message of the chairperson of the organ is to urge the political parties in Zimbabwe to participate in the run-off in full observation of the law,” said Tomas Salamao, executive secretary of SADC.

Salamao told state television that the delegation also met with the Zimbabwe Election Commission (ZEC), which is yet to announce the date for the run-off.

”The mission met the ZEC chairperson and also one of the candidates, President Robert Mugabe,” Salamao said.

”We intended also to meet the other candidate, Mr Morgan Tsvangirai, but it came to our attention that he is not around. But in view of that the troika is still keen to get hold of him and we will still try,” he added.

Others in the delegation included Swaziland Foreign Minister Mathendele Dlamini and a Tanzanian ambassador who were in Zimbabwe to assess the political situation ahead of the run-off.

A Zimbabwe Foreign Ministry source said the three left Harare on Wednesday for Lusaka to brief Zambian President Levy Mwanawasa, who is SADC chairperson.

Later the delegation will proceed to Pretoria to meet South African President Thabo Mbeki, SADC’s chief mediator on the Zimbabwe crisis.

‘A wounded tiger’

Meanwhile, a run-off will not solve the impasse in Zimbabwe and may exacerbate the situation, the Pan-African Parliament (PAP) said on Wednesday.

Leader of the PAP’s election observer mission to the country, Marwick Khumalo, said a political solution was now required.

”We are dealing with a wounded tiger here … when we approach the election, it won’t be child’s play,” he said.

The situation in Zimbabwe now was ”not conducive to a free and fair election [run-off]”.

After a discussion with the head of the ZEC, Khumalo learned that a run-off was not likely to take place within the required 21 days.

The leader of the ZEC cited ”logistical” problems in organising the run-off election within the legal time frame.

Khumalo said the PAP was assured that the run-off would take place at the ”earliest possible time”, which would not extend ”beyond the next twelve months”.

In the meantime, he said, Zimbabwe’s legislature remained paralysed until a new president was sworn in.

While Zimbabwean law required an election to resolve the impasse, Khumalo said he doubted a run-off was the answer.

In a report presented to the PAP, Khumalo said the ZEC had also ”long lost control of the election process”.

”Judging by the mystery surrounding the outcome of the presidential results and the unorthodox recounting of the ballots even before all the results of the harmonised elections are known, it is evident that the ZEC long lost control of the electoral process and its constitutional obligation has been gravely compromised.”

Whatever the outcome of the elections at this stage, the result would be disputed by political parties, said the report. — Sapa, AFP