Zimbabwe’s Mugabe to be sworn in as president

June 29th, 2008 - 10:32 pm ICT by IANS  

Johannesburg/Harare, June 29 (DPA) Journalists and diplomats were invited to attend the swearing-in Sunday afternoon of Zimbabwe’s longtime leader Robert Mugabe as president for the next five years following elections he alone contested. The invitations were issued before the results of Friday’s vote were released but the outcome has been in little doubt since opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) leader Morgan Tsvangirai withdrew from the vote, citing fears for the safety of his supporters.

Mugabe is to be sworn in hastily ahead of his departure for a summit of African Union (AU) heads of state in Egypt Monday.

While he was preparing Sunday to trumpet his victory over non-runner Tsvangirai in the run-off election, members of an African election monitoring mission were wrangling over the wording of their report on the poll.

The discussions among members of the 14-nation Southern African Development Community (SADC) came after another African observer team, from the Pan-African Parliament (PAP), slammed the vote as not having been “free, fair and credible”.

“State-sponsored” violence and intimidation before the vote marked the “lowest ebb in recent history in Zimbabwe”, the 40-strong PAP team said, calling on SADC and the AU to broker negotiations between Mugabe’s Zanu-PF party and the MDC on a transitional government.

The MDC and activist South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu meanwhile called on the AU not to recognise the outcome of the vote.

The MDC has also asked the AU to send peacekeepers to Zimbabwe and appoint a special envoy to help resolve the country’s three-month-long political impasse, sparked by Tsvangirai’s victory over Mugabe in first-round elections three months ago.

Despite topping the March poll Tsvangirai fell short of an outright majority, thrusting the two men into a run-off. Tsvangirai pulled out last week, after 86 of his supporters were killed.

Tutu, who has repeatedly called for Mugabe to stand down, said a “very good argument” could be made for an international peacekeeping force in Zimbabwe.

Kenya’s Prime Minister Raila Odinga called on the AU to intervene to wrest control from Mugabe, whom he called a “shame to Africa”.

But so far the AU has abstained from condemning Friday’s vote, which is expected to dominate leaders talks in Sharm el-Sheikh next week.

US President George W. Bush said Saturday his administration would be pushing for UN sanctions against Zimbabwe but the world body’s condemnation of the election has been watered down in recent days.

Under pressure from South Africa, whose President Thabo Mbeki is a close Mugabe ally, the UN Security Council Friday restricted itself to expressing “deep regret” over the ballot.

The Zimbabwe Election Commission had been expected to announce the results Sunday morning but the swearing-in was delayed after some results were “not adding up”, a ZEC source told DPA.

The results, which have been posted outside polling stations Saturday, showed a large number of spoilt votes in some areas.

International rights watchdog Human Rights Watch said Sunday it had documented incidents of reprisal attacks by ZANU-PF supporters since Friday against people who did not vote for Mugabe.

Mugabe has ruled Zimbabwe for all of its 28 years of independence from Britain.

His regime is blamed for the country’s economic ruin, including inflation levels of 2 million per cent according to MDC estimates and the collapse of the country’s agriculture following the seizing of white-owned farms as part of a controversial land reform programme.

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