Generals' report may sway Mbeki on Zim

A report by six former South African National Defence Force generals might lead to action being taken to address the violence in Zimbabwe, Deputy Foreign Affairs Minister Aziz Pahad said on Wednesday.

He said President Thabo Mbeki was waiting for a report from the generals on the violence before considering appropriate action.

“If there is any substantiation of the violence coming from the generals’ report and other reports, then it is up to the facilitator to see how he deals with this and get the agreement of all parties [on how] we will take steps to end any violence that is being perpetrated,” Pahad said.

He was briefing reporters at Parliament on the work of the government’s international relations, peace and security cluster, saying the former generals were expected to report back to Mbeki this week.

They were sent by Mbeki to investigate claims of increasing violence in Zimbabwe following the March 29 general election in that country.

President Robert Mugabe is pitched against Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) leader Morgan Tsvangirai in a run-off election, at a date yet to be announced, after Tsvangirai won the first round—but not with the required 50% majority.

Both parties have claimed that the other’s supporters are involved in post-election violence, creating an atmosphere of fear and intimidation in which the run-off cannot take place.

The MDC accuses the ruling Zanu-PF of waging a campaign of violence and intimidation against its supporters as part of efforts to rig the vote. It says 32 of its supporters have been killed in the aftermath of the elections.

The government denies the charges. The state-run Herald newspaper accused Western ambassadors on Wednesday of demonising Zimbabwe’s government and “cooking up” evidence of political violence to help the MDC remove Mugabe after 28 years in power.

In the meantime, Pahad said it is important that election observers be deployed in Zimbabwe in “large numbers” to help ensure a smooth run-off election.

He said that the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and other observer teams should have an “effective presence” on the ground that would help ensure a peaceful run-off election.

“If they can be sufficient, that will help us to be confident that in the end everybody will accept [the outcome],” he said.

SADC said on Wednesday that conditions are neither safe nor fair yet for a run-off election in Zimbabwe.

“At the moment we can’t say the playing ground is safe or will be fair, but we are there to create a conducive environment for everybody to be confident,” SADC executive secretary Tomaz Salomao told Reuters in an interview in neighbouring Mozambique.—Sapa, Reuters

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