/ 9 May 2008

Mbeki will fly to Zimbabwe in mediation bid

President Thabo Mbeki is expected to fly to Zimbabwe on Friday amid growing pressure on Robert Mugabe not to continue delaying a second round of the presidential election after he lost the first vote.

The head of Zimbabwe’s election commission said this week that it might postpone the run-off by up to a year, effectively extending Mugabe’s rule. Meanwhile the governing Zanu-PF party has stepped up its campaign of violence against opposition Movement for Democratic Change activists and supporters. At least 11 have been murdered this week, according to the MDC, and thousands beaten.

Mbeki’s office said only that he would meet Zimbabwe’s political leaders in his role as mediator for the Southern African Development Community. But confidence in Mbeki among the MDC and some regional leaders has eroded after Mugabe blocked the release of election results for five weeks and unleashed a campaign of violence against opponents in the hope of overturning his defeat by the MDC presidential candidate, Morgan Tsvangirai, in the first round six weeks ago.

The election commission gave Tsvangirai 47.9% of the vote, with 43,2% for Mugabe.On Thursday, the MDC again claimed to have won outright, with a little more than 50% of the vote, and said it would not participate in a second round.

The MDC says at least 32 members have been killed in the past fortnight, in a state-sponsored campaign of terror focused on those areas that shifted support from Mugabe to the opposition at the election.

The police have arrested a number of Mugabe’s critics in recent days, including two leaders of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions, the editor of an opposition newspaper and a civil rights lawyer. – guardian.co.uk Â