Zim cholera death toll tops 1 100

The death toll from a cholera epidemic in Zimbabwe has soared to 1 111, the United Nations said on Thursday, adding to pressure for a quick solution to the crisis in the Southern African country.

African National Congress leader Jacob Zuma backed a diplomatic push as the way to end political deadlock and rejected any suggestion of sending troops.

The latest cholera figures from the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in Geneva included a new outbreak in Chegutu Urban in Mashonaland West, west of Harare, where more than 378 cases and 121 deaths have been recorded, it said in a statement.

It said more than 20 580 people had been affected by cholera since August.

The cholera epidemic has added to pressure on President Robert Mugabe, and Western countries have renewed calls on the veteran leader to step down.

Mugabe agreed to share power with opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai in September, raising hopes of a power-sharing government that could bring the country back from economic meltdown.

But negotiations are deadlocked over who should control key ministries.

Prominent figures, including Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga and Nobel peace laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu, have called for Mugabe to go or for peacekeeping troops to be sent to Zimbabwe.

When asked in an interview with South Africa’s 702 Talk Radio whether he favoured sending troops to Zimbabwe, ANC leader Zuma said: “No. Why military intervention when there is no war? We should be pressurising them to see the light.”

South Africa’s ANC-led government, however, has continued to back the Southern African Development Community’s efforts to mediate an end to the crisis. Former South African president Thabo Mbeki is leading the mediation of the power-sharing talks.

Meanwhile, Mugabe’s Zanu-PF holds its annual conference on Friday facing internal divisions and intense global pressure over the ruinous political crisis and cholera epidemic.

Mugabe meets his top officials with the first-ever loss of their parliamentary majority in elections earlier this year hanging over them.

But the Voice, the official mouthpiece of Zanu-PF, said the issue of succession would not be on the agenda of the meeting, which was meant to “invigorate” the party.

The conference takes place in the small mining town of Bindura, about 80km north-west Harare.—Reuters, AFP

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