Zimbabwe’s opposition to decide on weekend about run-off

May 3rd, 2008 - 4:03 pm ICT by admin  

Johannesburg/Harare, May 3 (DPA) Zimbabwe’s opposition leaders denounced government demands for a run-off election as “grand theft” and insisted they had “won the elections”, but said they would decide over the weekend whether to participate in another round of voting. Tendai Biti, Secretary General of the Movement for Democratic Change, was speaking late Friday in neighbouring South Africa, where many MDC supporters have fled seeking refuge from violent attacks by President Robert Mugabe’s supporters since the March 29 elections.

Biti also suggested that Mugabe be given a figurehead position in a new “government of national healing” which would be headed by opposition presidential candidate Morgan Tsvangirai.

Zimbabwe’s Election Commission (ZEC) released earlier Friday the long-delayed results showing Tsvangirai was the top vote-getter with 47.9 percent, beating Mugabe’s 43.2 percent.

Mugabe has been president for nearly three decades. The results marked the first time in several controversial elections that the official election organisation conceded more votes to a Mugabe challenger.

The MDC insists it won the 50 percent required for an outright win. Biti charged that the commission used the month-long delay to manipulate almost 90,000 votes by adding more than 37,000 votes to Mugabe and removing 50,000 votes from Tsvangirai.

Under pressure from his own party, religious leaders and the international community, South African President Thabo Mbeki - who has insisted Zimbabwe’s elections were an internal matter - signalled late Friday that he would immediately send a team to Zimbabwe to investigate reports of violence against opposition supporters.

“He assured us that he would do everything to ensure that the run-off election happens in an atmosphere of peace,” said Reverend Nyansako-ni-Nku, president of the All Africa Conference of Churches.

The minister spoke to reporters after four hours of talks between religious leaders and Mbeki at the presidential guesthouse in Pretoria, SAPA news agency reported.

“The president said that right away they will dispatch a team to check every allegation of violence,” the minister said.

Mbeki did not speak directly to reporters.

In Harare, the regional group, Southern African Development Community, said it found an increase in violence and a “tense environment” amidst “inflammatory utterances” by both ruling party and opposition leaders during the election recount.

Jose Marcos Barrica, Angola’s minister of youth and sport who is heading the SADC mission, noted that tortures, killings and destruction of goods had taken place in a “climate of political intolerance” that he blamed on “leaders who took part in the elections”.

Barrica appealed to Zimbabwe’s leaders to “work for the good of the nation” and respect the will of the people expressed in the ballot boxes.

The opposition MDC called for Tsvangirai to be allowed to form a government of national healing, but was willing to accord Mugabe high status in a new government.

“The only condition we give … is that President Robert Mugabe must be promoted upstairs, where he can become sort of an elder statesman,” Biti said.

The British and US governments said the results announced Friday lacked “credibility”.

A runoff would “not be fair unless international monitors were present”, Britain’s Foreign Office in London said in a statement.

In Washington, US State Department deputy spokesman Tom Casey called for Mugabe’s government to “cease the kinds of action it’s been taking against the opposition before anyone should even think” about a run-off.

The MDC Friday estimated that 20 opposition supporters have been killed by Mugabe’s strike troops. Human Rights Watch accused Zimbabwe’s military of participating in the attacks.

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