Makoni: Run-off must be cancelled

Zimbabwe’s presidential run-off vote on June 27 should be called off because a free and fair vote is impossible, ruling Zanu-PF party defector Simba Makoni said on Tuesday.

Makoni, who challenged President Robert Mugabe in disputed March elections, told reporters in Johannesburg that opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai must negotiate a transitional government to rule the country for five years.

“We don’t believe that a run-off can be held on June 27 and be a free and fair election. The country is in the grip of violence. The fiscus does not have the money to support an election.
Therefore we believe that a run-off is not necessary. We don’t believe the run-off will solve the problems of the country,” Makoni said.

United States-based Human Rights Watch said on Monday that a free and fair poll was impossible because of a systematic campaign of murder and brutality unleashed by Mugabe’s Zanu-PF party in which at least 36 people had died.

Tsvangirai defeated Mugabe in an election on March 29 but failed to reach the absolute majority needed for outright victory, necessitating a run-off later this month.

Makoni, a former finance minister, came a distant third.

Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change, human rights groups and Western powers all say Zanu-PF has mounted a campaign of brutal intimidation and rigging to ensure Mugabe wins the runoff and extends his 28-year rule.

Mugabe blames his foes for the violence.

Jacob Zuma, president of the African National Congress, said during a tour of India on Tuesday that he was alarmed and anxious about the reports of violence and called on Zanu-PF to ensure free political activity before the vote.

Crisis talks
Business Day newspaper reported on Tuesday that Zanu-PF and the MDC were in crisis talks that could lead to cancellation of the run-off.

The generally well-informed paper, quoting negotiators from both parties, said the talks were mediated by South African President Thabo Mbeki, who failed to negotiate an end to the crisis last year.

“Zanu-PF and the opposition ... are engaged in 11th hour talks—mediated by President Thabo Mbeki—to salvage a solution to the political stalemate, which may include cancelling a proposed presidential run-off election,” the paper said.

Zuma, who has been outspoken about the Zimbabwe crisis, is frontrunner to succeed Mbeki next year after toppling him as leader of the ruling African National Congress (ANC). The latter has been widely criticised for his softly-softly approach to Mugabe. Mbeki spokesperson Mukoni Ratshitanga said he was unaware of the talks and officials from the two parties were not immediately available.

Business Day quoted the negotiators as saying the run-off might be too “dicey”.

They were looking at various options including a national unity government led by Mugabe, with Tsvangirai as prime minister—similar to the solution found for Kenya’s bloody crisis earlier this year. - Reuters 2008

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