South Africa’s unexpected move against Mugabe

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South Africa’s government today shocked the world when it called for the first time for the rapid release of results from Zimbabwe’s presidential election, where a long delay has increased fears of violence.

from our Southern African correspondent

The situation is dire,” government spokesman Themba Maseko in Cape Town said . “When elections are held and results are not released two weeks after, it is obviously of great concern,” .

It was a major shift by the government of President Thabo Mbeki, who had previously said the electoral process must take its course and there was no crisis following the March 29 elections.

His stance was seen as backing Mugabe over the delay.

“The Zimbabweans need to be informed about those reasons for holding the results. But the most important thing is that the results need to be verified and released as soon as possible,” Maseko.

The government of regional power South Africa had previously hesitated to join international expressions of concern about the delay in issuing the result of the vote, in which the opposition says Mugabe was defeated.

But ruling party leader Jacob Zuma, who toppled Mbeki from the head of the African National Congress last December has made several statements calling for release of the results.

Maseko used similar language to Zuma in expressing concern about the results delay.

Maseko said that if there were reasons for not issuing the results, “we
think that those issues need to be dealt with as quickly as possible.

Mugabe’s ZANU-PF party lost control of parliament for the first time in the
elections but the result of the presidential poll has still not been released.

Mbeki is under criticism at home for his insistence on quiet diplomacy in
dealing with the crisis in Zimbabwe, where the economy has collapsed, bringing hyper-inflation, shortages of food and fuel and 80 percent unemployment.

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