Independence Day court defeat for Zimbabwe opposition

April 19th, 2008 - 12:33 pm ICT by admin  

Harare/Johannesburg, April 19 (DPA) A court in Zimbabwe has cleared the way for a controversial recount of votes cast in last month’s presidential elections as embattled President Robert Mugabe lashed out at what he called Britain’s attempt to “steal” back the country. The high court in Harare Friday rejected an application by the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) to halt the partial recount of votes from the March 29 vote Saturday, in the second legal setback for the MDC in less than a week.

On Monday the same court threw out the party’s appeal for an order forcing the state-controlled Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) to release the results of the presidential vote, in which MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai has already claimed victory.

Mugabe’s Zanu-PF party claims neither Tsvangirai nor Mugabe won outright and that a runoff is required. An independent electoral observation NGO also predicted neither took more than 50 percent.

Saturday’s recount is of votes cast in 23 constituencies for president and the 210-seat lower house of parliament. Most of those assembly seats were won by the MDC, which defeated Mugabe’s Zanu-PF 109 seats to 97.

Zanu-PF needs to take back nine of the 23 seats to reclaim its majority.

Meanwhile, Mugabe used his first major address since the elections to issue a by-now trademark warning that former colonial power Britain would never “steal” back his country.

Mugabe was addressing around 15,000 people in a stadium on the 28th anniversary of Zimbabwe’s independence from Britain and his arrival to power.

The 84-year-old leader accused Britain of throwing money at Zimbabweans to turn them against him.

“Zimbabwe will never be a colony again,” he vowed. “Down with the British. Down with those thieves who want to steal our country.”

He also alleged some white farmers, who were evicted from their land by ruling party members and cronies since 2000 and emigrated, were waiting in hotels in Zimbabwe to reclaim their land in the event of a Tsvangirai victory.

Mugabe’s nationalist rhetoric is seen as part of his attempt to regain support in rural areas where he lost support in this election ahead of a runoff.

Tsvangirai has swung between opposing a runoff and saying he would partake if international observers were present to ensure it was free and fair.

On Friday he and other MDC leaders continued their push for international support and intervention in the dispute.

Tsvangirai met visiting Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg in Johannesburg.

Stoltenberg said he supported worldwide calls for the election results to be released, adding that he had not been able to “foresee how bad things would get”.

MDC officials were also in Kenya for talks with new Prime Minister Raila Odinga on how he dealt with that country’s post-election crisis.

“Kenya is special for us … because of the special circumstances that people here have gone through. There is a basic correlation. Your people feel our bitterness, our people share your bitterness,” MDC secretary-general Tendai Biti told Kenya’s independent NTV station.

The MDC and several newspapers have alleged that military hardliners, who oppose Mugabe stepping down, are now effectively running the country.

Earlier soldiers went house to house in the low-income Harare suburb of Glenview beating up men and youths, in what one witness claimed was revenge for a soldier being “provoked” earlier in the week.

Youth militia loyal to Mugabe have also sown terror in rural areas, beating up scores of people - killing four according to the MDC - for “voting wrong” (for Tsvangirai).

The situation in Zimbabwe has sparked objections in neighbouring South Africa over a consignment of Chinese weapons sitting in Durban harbour destined for the Zimbabwe Defence Forces.

The 70-tonne consignment includes millions of rounds of ammunition for AK-47 assault rifles, mortar bombs, grenades and grenade launchers.

Dock workers have refused to off-load the shipment for transport by road to Zimbabwe saying it would be “grossly irresponsible” to do so. Opposition parties and activists have expressed alarm the arms could be used against civilians.

But the government, whose President Thabo Mbeki recently declared the Zimbabwean standoff did not constitute a crisis, said it could not interfere in a transaction between two sovereign states.

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