April 15, 2008

SADC urges rapid poll result / UN Chief calls for 'decisive action' on polls

Southern African leaders have called for the rapid release of results from Zimbabwe's election after a two-week delay that has raised fears of violence. Zambian Foreign Minister Kabinga Pande told reporters a 13-hour summit in Lusaka had also called on President Robert Mugabe to ensure that a possible run-off vote against opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai be held "in a secure environment". The 14-nation Southern African Development Community (SADC) "urged the electoral authorities in Zimbabwe that verification and release of results are expeditiously done in accordance with the due process of law", said Pande. The summit ran almost 10 hours over schedule and ended at about 5am local time. A senior Zambian official said earlier the delay was caused by a disagreement among leaders over whether the post-election impasse should be called a crisis. But Pande, in response to questions, said: "It is not a crisis at all."
The regional leaders called on South African President Thabo Mbeki to continue his mission as chief mediator between Zimbabwe's ruling Zanu PF and the opposition following recent disputed elections. "The summit congratulated and thanked the SADC facilitator, President Mbeki, and his facilitation team for the role they had played in helping to contribute to the successful holding of election," a joint statement said. "[The] summit requested President Mbeki to continue in his role as facilitator on Zimbabwe on the outstanding issue," said the statement issued at the conclusion of the summit. Mbeki said after meeting Mugabe en route to the summit that there was no crisis. Mugabe did not attend the summit. However, the opposition party MDC remains sceptical of Mbeki's mediation, sources say, and there are behind the scenes negotiations to get Mugabe and Tsvangirai together as a step towards brokering some sort of deal.
Zambian President Levy Mwanawasa, SADC's current chairperson, called the summit because of regional concern over the impasse. "SADC can no longer continue to stand by and do nothing when one of its members is experiencing political and economic difficulties," he said in an opening speech. Mbeki, who has consistently favoured a softer line with Mugabe, said the election process was proceeding normally. "I wouldn't describe that as a crisis," he told reporters after his meeting with Mugabe in Harare. "We have to wait for ZEC to release [the results]," said Mbeki, echoing Mugabe's own stance on the unusually long delay. Mugabe dismissed a remark by British Prime Minister Gordon Brown that the world was losing patience. "If Brown is the world, sure, he will lose patience. I know Brown as a little tiny dot on this planet," Mugabe said.
Some days after the summit, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, has signalled its growing impatience with the failure of southern African governments to resolve the impasse over Zimbabwe's election results.

Addressing a UN Security Council summit in New York, he noted that the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and Zimbabwe had both insisted that the issue was for the region to resolve. He added: "But the international community continues to watch and wait for decisive action. The credibility of the democratic process in Africa could be at stake here." Ban was also concerned by "the uncertainty created by the prolonged non-release of the election results... Absent a transparent solution to this impasse, the situation could deteriorate further with serious implications for the people of Zimbabwe." He said if there was a second round of presidential elections between President Robert Mugabe and opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai, they had to be conducted with international observers present. (The Mail & Guardian, Johannesburg/The Business Day, Johannesburg)

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