SADC discusses Zimbabwean post-election stalemate

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ZIMBABWE’s election stalemate is not a crisis and its electoral commission must be given time to release the results of a presidential poll held two weeks ago, President Thabo Mbeki said yesterday.

from our correspondent in Harare

Mbeki held an hour-long meeting with Robert Mugabe, shortly before regional leaders meet in Zambia to discuss the deadlock resulting from elections on March 29.

The Harare talks were the first since the election between Mugabe and Mbeki, who has been mediating between Mugabe’s Zanu-PF and the opposition MDC since last year.

The MDC won a parliamentary election, also held on March 29, and claimed victory in the presidential poll. It has gone to court to try to force the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) to release the results, 14 days after the vote took place.

“I wouldn’t describe that as a crisis. It’s a normal electoral process in
Zimbabwe. We have to wait for ZEC to release the results,” Mbeki said.

Mugabe did not attend yesterday’s Southern African Development Community (SADC) summit in Lusaka, called by Zambian President Levy Mwanawasa to help end the impasse over Zimbabwe’s disputed elections and prevent the crisis from turning violent.

Mugabe (84), in power since independence from Britain in 1980, said he was not snubbing the summit, which three government ministers will attend.

“Mbeki is going to the summit, I’m not … We are very good friends and very good brothers. Sometimes you attend, sometimes you have other things holding you back,” Mugabe said.

He dismissed comments by British Prime Minister Gordon Brown that the world was losing patience with him, saying: “If Brown is the world, sure, he will lose patience. I know Brown as a little tiny dot on this planet.”

The head of the Zimbabwean government’s delegation in Lusaka dismissed the summit as unnecessary and angrily denounced the invitation granted to Zimbabwe’s opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai.

“There is no need to regionalise the Zimbabwean crisis,” Justice Minister
Patrick Chinamasa said. “Inviting an opposition leader to a heads of state meeting is unheard of. We will not accept Tsvangirai to be part of this meeting.”

Meanwhile, the extraordinary summit lived up to its billing as regional leaders discussing the post-election crisis in Zimbabwe remained behind closed doors well past midnight Saturday without issuing a communiqué on the two-week delay in issuing results of the country’s March 29 presidential election.

Observers speculated that the delay signaled a fierce debate between those reluctant to issue in effect a reprimand to Mugabe, and regional peers who might feel that the time had come to set aside longstanding loyalties to the man who once provided a redoubt to South African fighters battling apartheid.

The delay to conclude the meeting was caused by a disagreement on how the final communique should be phrased.

Some leaders felt that including the word crisis will be inappropriate while others said the extraordinary conference in itself shows there is a crisis in Zimbabwe

By early morning no communique was issued.

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