Thabo Mbeki eases tensions after meeting with Mugabe

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South African President Thabo Mbeki said Saturday the electoral crisis in Zimbabwe, which has prompted a regional summit, was still manageable.

Political tensions are rising in Zimbabwe after the authorities refused to release the results of the 29 March presidential vote, alleging electoral fraud which needed to be investigated first.

Speaking after talks with President Robert Mugabe, Mbeki said the opposing sides in Zimbabwe’s elections, and the outside world should wait for a court ruling, expected Monday, on an opposition petition for the release of the poll result.

The opposition has claimed victory, and called for a general strike, starting Tuesday, to press the authorities to concede defeat and release the results of the election.

The stand-off has prompted the regional Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) grouping to call for an emergency summit in Zambia to find ways of diffusing the explosive situation.

But Mbeki, who last year mediated between the opposition and the government in Zimbabwe in the run-up to the election under SADC, said the crisis had not gone out of control.

“There is no crisis. We must be patient and wait for the courts to make a determination and for the elections commission to complete its work,” he said.

“All sides should exercise restraint and wait for those charged with the responsibility of dealing with the elections to finish their work,” he said.

The electoral body has said it was still collating and verifying ballots, a claim the opposition has dismissed.

The main opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) has said the authorities were trying to cheat it out of victory by delaying the announcement of the result and is lobbying regional governments to press Mugabe to accept defeat.

In addition to calling for a strike, it was planning to hold rallies in the country to put pressure on the government to concede defeat, a move the police have foiled by placing a ban on rallies for security reasons.

Mbeki stopped over in Zimbabwe en route to Zambia for the SADC summit, to talk with Mugabe over the post election imbroglio.

Mugabe is staying away from the meeting, claiming not to have been properly consulted on its convening.

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