Zimbabwe said Tuesday President Robert Mugabe snubbed a regional summit in Zambia at the weekend because it had been irregularly convened by host President Levy Mwanawasa.
Leaders of the 14-nation Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) held a one-day summit in Zambia Saturday to try and break an electoral impasse in Zimbabwe over delays in releasing results of a presidential vote held 29 March.
But Mugabe snubbed the summit, and in his place sent three ministers to represent him.
Leader of the three-man Zimbabwe mission to the summit, Housing Minister Emmerson Mnangagwa, said Zambia did not consult SADC members prior to the announcement of the meeting, as required by protocol.
He said leaders first learnt of the summit from the media.
“We expressed our deepest concern over such practices. It is in this context that […] the President, Cde R.G. Mugabe, constituted a delegation to attend and represent him at the summit,” Mnangagwa said.
“This (lack of prior consultation) took member states by surprise since there had been no prior consultations undertaken by the SADC chairperson (President Mwanawasa) as is the tradition,” he added.
SADC leaders, worried about political tensions building in Zimbabwe over the delayed election results, said these should be released ‘expeditiously’, and that all parties should accept them.
Election officials in Zimbabwe have said they were still counting and verifying ballots, and ordered a recount in 23 constituencies were fraud is suspected.
The opposition, claiming it won the vote, has said it suspects the authorities are trying to rig the poll by delaying the announcement of the result of the election.
On Monday, the High Court threw out an opposition petition to force the elections body to release the results.
This prompted the main opposition Movement for Democratic Change to call for an indefinite general strike starting Tuesday. Panapress .