No crisis in Zimbabwe, says South African president

April 12th, 2008 - 9:25 pm ICT by admin  

A file-photo of Gordon Brown
Johannesburg/Harare, April 12 (DPA) South African President Thabo Mbeki Saturday downplayed the election standoff between Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe and the opposition, saying there was “no crisis” just as an emergency summit on the issue got under way in Zambia. Speaking after talks with Mugabe in the Zimbabwean capital Harare, Mbeki said the country’s tense post-election deadlock, caused by a two-week wait for the results of presidential elections, was not a crisis and urged further patience.

Mbeki, the region’s mediator in Zimbabwe, stopped over in Harare to meet Mugabe on his way to the Zambian capital Lusaka, where leaders of the 14-nation Southern African Development Community (SADC) are gathering to discuss the tensions in Zimbabwe.

Mugabe is boycotting the summit because his party also deems there is no crisis, a spokesman said Friday. He is being represented in Lusaka by several of his ministers, included reappointed Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa.

His rival, Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) leader Morgan Tsvangirai, is attending, however. The MDC is calling on SADC leaders to pressure Mugabe to concede defeat in the March 29 elections.

The party claims Tsvangirai won the presidential vote outright and accuses Mugabe of withholding the results to rig them.

Mugabe’s party claims neither Tsvangirai nor Mugabe took more than 50 percent of the vote and says a second round of voting will be needed.

The SADC summit is seen as a test of the bloc’s commitment to reform. In the past Zimbabwe’s neighbours have stood by Mugabe through his worst excesses.

At a press conference in Lusaka Saturday MDC secretary-general Tendai Biti urged SADC leaders to advise Mugabe he had lost and to hand over power to Tsvangirai, the “people’s choice”.

Former UN secretary general Kofi Annan Friday warned SADC leaders they had “a grave responsibility to act, not only because of the negative spillover effects on the region, but also to ensure that democracy, human rights and the rule of law are respected”.

In a statement Friday British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said the patience of the international community over the election commission’s refusal to release the election results was “wearing thin”.

As both sides in Zimbabwe became increasingly entrenched police Friday announced a ban on all political rallies in Harare until further notice while the MDC called for a nationwide work stay away beginning Tuesday to press for the poll results.

In a statement Tsvangirai said Saturday’s regional meeting was “an historic moment for SADC and a defining moment for Africa”.

Despite his party’s defeat by the MDC in parliamentary elections, its admission he did not win the presidential election and the ruinous state of the economy, Mugabe, 84, is seeking another five years in power.

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