REGIONAL and international diplomatic pressure is mounting on the government to order the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) to release results of the March 29 presidential election which President Robert Mugabe reportedly lost to the MDC’s Morgan Tsvangirai.
The MDC claims Tsvangirai won the poll by 54% against Mugabe’s 42%, but independent election monitors said neither of the two had the required 50% plus votes to assume office. As a result, a run-off pitting Tsvangirai and Mugabe is anticipated.
However, latest media reports indicate Tsvangirai has reviewed his position on a run-off citing “changed circumstances” due to violence across the country which he says is not conducive to the holding of free and fair elections.
The ZEC is yet to announce the official results claiming that it was “meticulously” verifying and collating the votes. This has attracted condemnation in the region and abroad.
The MDC has since approached the courts seeking an order compelling the ZEC to announce the results. High Court judge, Justice Tendai Uchena, is expected to hand down judgement on Monday.Â
Sadc chairperson and Zambia president, Levy Mwanawasa, has called for an emergency meeting of heads of state in Lusaka tomorrow to deliberate on the Zimbabwe crisis that has seen Tsvangirai and the MDC calling for regional and international intervention.
Mwanawasa said because of the deepening problems in Zimbabwe, he “felt that this matter should be dealt with at presidential level”.
While Sadc leaders would be meeting, the diplomatic sources said, the United Nations (UN) country team would be preparing to engage the Zimbabwe government to find a solution to the political crisis.
“The UN team intends to meet the Zimbabwe government and see how it can assist in ending this impasse,” one of the diplomats said. “There are fears that the situation could degenerate into violence if the results are not announced soon.”
On Monday, the UN secretary-general Ban Ki-Moon issued a statement calling for the expeditious and transparent release of the election results.
“The secretary-general is concerned that presidential results have yet to be released,” read the statement. “He urges the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission to discharge its responsibility and release the results expeditiously and with transparency.”Â
Ban appealed to political parties in the country to act responsibly, exercise restraint and calm, and to address all issues regarding the elections through recourse to legal means and dialogue.
This week, British and Swedish parliamentarians Kate Hoey and Birgitta Ohlsson urged Ban to lead a UN delegation to deal with the election crisis in Zimbabwe.
In a joint letter to the secretary-general, the two MPs said his presence in Harare would signal that the world community stood united in an appeal for the installation of a government that reflects the will of the people.
Both MPs have made recent undercover visits to Zimbabwe, meeting opposition activists and members of civil society engaged in the struggle for democracy and human rights.
Labour’s Hoey is chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Zimbabwe in the UK Parliament. Birgitta Ohlsson is the Foreign Affairs spokesperson for the Liberal Party in the Swedish Parliament.
The two wrote: “We, the undersigned, have made repeated visits to Zimbabwe and have noted pleas from within the country for help from the United Nations. In order to facilitate a peaceful solution to the ongoing crisis, the United Nations must act immediately.
“The United Nations’ ability to respond decisively in the wake of a bitterly contested election was illustrated during former secretary-general Kofi Annan’s diplomatic intervention in Kenya.”
Annan was reportedly trying to engage Mugabe to mediate in the political impasse like what he did in Kenya, but the public media this week said the government would spurn his overtures because he was allegedly being used by Britain and America to effect regime change in Zimbabwe.
European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana on Tuesday revealed that he had spoken to Tanzanian president and AU African Union head Jakaya Kikwete about the Zimbabwe crisis and was told that AU leaders were unable to get through to Mugabe. He evidently wasn’t taking their calls.
“All the efforts that have been made have been a failure,” Solana told the European Parliament’s foreign affairs committee in Brussels. “So it is a concern of the leaders of the region.”
The diplomat said there were fears in Brussels and beyond that Zimbabwe could descend into the kind of post-election violence seen in Kenya in January if the electoral impasse persists.
Last Friday, the EU’s Slovenian presidency called on Zimbabwe to issue the results of its presidential election “without further delay”.
Annan last Thursday urged Zimbabwe’s government not to tamper with election results and to respect the country’s constitution. Annan, who last month led negotiations to resolve an electoral crisis in Kenya on behalf of the African Union, said from Geneva that the people of Zimbabwe had exercised their democratic rights, though the results were “still dribbling in” several days later.
“I strongly urge the government and the Electoral Commission to scrupulously observe the electoral law and to declare the election results faithfully and accurately,” Annan said. “Any attempt to tamper with these results would be rejected by the people of Zimbabwe as well as by the international community,” he said. “The wish of the people must be heeded and everyone must accept the outcome.” He warned that the world will be watching Zimbabwe and its leaders, urging them to respect the constitution and obey the electoral laws.
Jacob Zuma, the president of the ruling African National Congress (ANC) in South Africa, on Monday criticised the delay in publishing the results of the presidential election.
Speaking to journalists after meeting Tsvangirai in Johannesburg, Zuma said the ZEC should have announced the results by now.
“I think keeping the nation in suspense, and as you know, the Zimbabwean issue has become an international issue – it is almost keeping the international community in suspense – I don’t think it augurs very well,” Zuma, who is expected to become South Africa’s president next year, said.
Zuma’s comments were in contrast to those of South African president Thabo Mbeki who said in Britain at the weekend that the situation was “manageable”. He told Zimbabweans to wait. Mbeki made the statement after meeting British Prime Minister Gordon Brown.
Brown wanted Mbeki to persuade Mugabe to accept the results and not to resort to violence in an attempt to hang onto power.
Mbeki reportedly refused to criticise Zimbabwe’s conduct of the elections and rejected a call by the MDC for international intervention to prevent bloodshed.
The South African president reportedly declared that: “Zimbabwe is not a South African province. Can we agree about that?”
The MDC on Tuesday slammed the “deafening silence” from Africa in the aftermath of the country’s elections, warning of bloodshed on the streets unless pressure is brought to bear on Mugabe.
The party said its supporters were being provoked into violence as part of a strategy to impose a state of emergency.
By Constantine Chimakure