Zimbabwe Run-off to Go Ahead

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WINDHOEK/HARARE

Zimbabwean election run-off will go on as scheduled despite the withdrawal by the member of the opposition party Morgan Tsvangirai.

South African President Thabo Mbeki revealed this during a three-hour briefing with President Hifikepunye Pohamba in Cape Town yesterday afternoon.

The briefing coincided with the Southern African Development Community (SADC) security troika’s emergency meeting in Swaziland.

Upon arrival at the Eros Airport yesterday evening, Pohamba told New Era that the aim of his meeting with Mbeki was to get an update on Mbeki’s mediation efforts on the political situation in Zimbabwe.

“I went to consult with him, he briefed me and according to President Mbeki, the government of Zimbabwe informed him that elections will go on as per schedule,” said Pohamba.

The Zimbabwean government argues that the election re-run (scheduled for tomorrow) will be conducted in accordance with the electoral law, Pohamba added.

Although Pohamba did not indicate when, he said Mbeki would soon report to the SADC summit on his mediation efforts.

Reports from Harare say the security troika meeting ended in Swaziland with a call for a postponement of tomorrow’s presidential election run-off, saying the re-election of President Robert Mugabe could lack legitimacy in the current violent climate.

The call put the heaviest pressure yet on Mugabe, who has so far defied a storm of international condemnation of violence following the first round of elections on March 29.

“It is the considered opinion of the organ’s summit that holding the election under the current circumstances may undermine the credibility and legitimacy of its outcome,” the troika said.

It said the group had been briefed by Mbeki, the designated SADC mediator in Zimbabwe, on Tuesday.

Mbeki has previously been widely criticised for taking an ineffective soft line with Mugabe. Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga yesterday called for a new mediator.

The troika, comprising Tanzania – the African Union chairman – Swaziland and Angola, urged talks between government and opposition before a new date was set for the presidential run-off.

But Zimbabwe’s Electoral Commission (ZEC) ruled that last Sunday’s withdrawal from the election by opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai had no legal force and the poll would go ahead.

Tsvangirai spoke at a press conference at his home after leaving the Dutch embassy where he took refuge after announcing the pull out last Sunday. But he returned to the embassy later.

He told reporters during his brief news conference: “I am asking the AU and SADC to lead an expanded initiative supported by the UN to manage what I will call a transitional process.”

The opposition leader said the election would not be accepted either by Zimbabweans or the world. He called on the AU to discuss the crisis next weekend at a summit in Egypt.

South Africa also said a top negotiator was in Harare mediating talks on options including postponement of the vote.

South African spokesman, Themba Maseko, told Reuters: “The facilitation talks between the various parties in Zimbabwe are looking at all aspects that will bring a possible settlement… all options are being considered which would, I suspect, include the possibility of a postponement.”

He said senior negotiator Sydney Mufamadi was in Harare talking both to the government and opposition.

Meanwhile, Britain yesterday stripped Mugabe of an honorary knighthood awarded in 1994 when the Zimbabwean president was still considered a model African leader by the former colonial power.

The foreign ministry said the action was taken as “a mark of revulsion” at human rights abuses in Zimbabwe.

Britain also said it was preparing tougher sanctions against specific members of Zimbabwe’s government.

Tsvangirai said that while he was prepared to negotiate with Mugabe’s ZANU-PF before Friday, his MDC would “not have anything to do” with a government that emerged from the vote. – Own Reporter-Nampa-Reuters

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