Zimbabwe run-off poll set for June 27

Opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai will return to Zimbabwe on Saturday after spending more than a month out of the country following disputed elections, a party spokesperson said.

Meanwhile, the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission announced on Friday that the run-off presidential election will take place on June 27, the country’s electoral commision announced on Friday in a Government Gazette/.

Tsvangirai, who is currently in Northern Ireland, was due to fly back overnight and would arrive in Harare at lunchtime, according to the Movement for Democratic Change’s director of information.

”President Tsvangirai is definitely arriving tomorrow at 1pm (11am GMT) and will get straight into the business of running the nation,” said Luke Tamborinyoka.

”That will include addressing members of Parliament and senators in Harare before moving to Bulawayo where he will address a rally on Sunday.”

Churches to help fight violence

Zimbabwean security chiefs have urged church leaders to help stop rising violence ahead of a delayed run-off election in which the opposition hopes to oust President Robert Mugabe.

Official results showed Tsvangirai beat Mugabe in the disputed March 29 poll, but not by enough votes to avoid a run-off.

The ruling Zanu-PF’s policy-setting central committee will also hold its first meeting since the March elections, in which the party lost its parliamentary majority to the opposition for the first time since independence in 1980. The meeting is expected to map out Mugabe’s campaign strategy.

The state-controlled Herald newspaper said the government was stepping up efforts to avoid an escalation of politically motivated violence ahead of the second round ballot.

”It is understood that [defence forces commander] General [Constantine] Chiwenga appealed to the church leaders to urge their congregations to work towards peace while political parties were also implored to desist from violence,” the daily paper said on Friday.

The MDC blames the government for violence in which it says 40 of its members have been killed, scores have been wounded and more than 1 000 homes burnt or destroyed in attacks by gangs wielding whips, axes and clubs.

Zanu-PF denies responsibility, accusing the MDC of unleashing the violence to discredit Mugabe.

Neighbouring states, including economic powerhouse South Africa, are concerned the instability and economic turmoil in Zimbabwe could take their toll on them too.

The Herald said police Commissioner General Augustine Chihuri told church leaders on Thursday the police was dismantling political bases set up by both Zanu-PF and MDC around the country where acts of violence had been committed.

The security chiefs have previously said they would not allow Tsvangirai and his MDC to rule the country.

Post-poll violence

The MDC accuses Mugabe of unleashing his militias in the countryside since the March elections, both to punish voters who supported the opposition and to intimidate them ahead of the next round of voting.

The opposition says youth brigades, the army and veterans of a 1970s independence war have been deployed to galvanise support for the 84-year-old Zimbabwean leader and former guerrilla hero.

The government denies the accusations, and has repeatedly denounced acts of violence and called for calm.

The MDC on Thursday called for an urgent meeting of countries in the region to avoid ”rivers of dead people”. It rejected a delay in the run-off election announced by the government, but stopped short of saying Tsvangirai would only participate if the timeline was upheld.

The MDC says authorities have banned a rally on Sunday at which Tsvangirai was due to kick off his campaign for the run-off. The United States condemned the ban. – Reuters

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