No official results have been released exactly one month after presidential elections were held in Zimbabwe on March 29th. The two main parties involved in the elections, the 84 year old Robert Mugabe’s Zanu-PF and the opposition’s MDC party headed by Morgan Tsvangirai, who claims his party won the elections. He argues that the delay of the release the results is calculated to give Zanu-PF ample time to rig the elections.
The opposition maintained its lead after a recount of the parliamentary election results giving them their first victory since the country obtained its independence from Britain in 1980. A possible outcome would be a unity government — between MDC and its breakaway faction — strongly advocated for by Zimbabwe’s ambassador to the UN, Boniface Chidyausiku.
Meanwhile, peace continues its downhill deterioration as reports indicate that violent attacks from pro-Mugabe groups being meted out to MDC supporters have resulted in hospitals getting choked with victims. The existence of torture sites appearing across the country, denounced by the local church, raises fear of organized repression to silence the opposition.
Mugabe’s ruling party, Zanu-PF, denies the opposition’s claims of post electoral violence while accusing them of inventing stories without proof to grab the attention of the international community.
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Mugabe’s silence during the weeks that followed the election was finally broken in a speech he gave, April 18 during the 28th anniversary of Zimbabwe’s independence, in which he violently attacked the British and the opposition. He blamed the ex colons of buying the elections while the opposition was accused of reopening doors to the British, thus destroying what he had fought for during the country’s struggle for independence.
Mbeki’s controversial mediation.
Throughout the crisis, South Africa has played a controversial role as mediator. South African president, Thabo Mbeki, appointed by African countries as mediator in the Zimbabwe stalemate to find a lasting solution has been heavily criticized for comments he made, leading analysts to question his neutrality.
The South African president’s much awaited but very late demand for the release of election results attracted international criticisms. Thabo Mbeki also said there were “no crisis” in Zimbabwe when evidence showed the contrary. This only served as a reminder of his past assertion concerning HIV/AIDS, which had sparked international furor.
Two weeks ago Tsvangirai logically asked that the controversial Mbeki step down from his role as mediator considering that he was too biased to play the role.
Meanwhile, our Southern African correspondent has reported that the ANC is embarking on a plan to “shadow” Mbeki until his departure from office next year.
Mugabe’s Chinese arms
The An Yue Jiang, a chinese cargo ship carrying weapons paid for by Mugabe’s government, was turned away from off loading its lethal wares at the south African port of Durban, forcing it to cruise the southern African waters in search of a friendly port to dock and offload its cargo.
The consequences these weapons would have in the wrong hands in Zimbabwe could spell nothing short of a disaster. In what members of the MDC already call a “war” the arrival of three million rounds of AK-47 ammunition, 1,500 rocket-propelled grenades and more than 3,000 mortar rounds and mortar tubes could bear no positive prospect.
Recently rigged elections in Kenya sparked several days of chaos and protests resulting in close to a thousand deaths and displacing tens of thousands more from their homes.
Evoking memories of the 1994 Rwanda genocide would not be far fetched considering that a lesser number of weapons than those on board the An Yue Jiang, was enough to wipe out whole towns in a matter of days, observers have said.
International concern and pressure
International reactions fused when Mbeki did little to refuse the weapons from entering Zimbabwe. In fact, it is reported that port workers were very instrumental in the decision to refuse the ship’s cargo on South African soil. Another bone of contention is why the ship was authorized to continue its journey visibly unconcerned by the terrible consequences the weapons could have at the hands of violent Mugabe supporters.
Zimbabwe is landlocked and has to use the ports of South Africa, Mozambique, Zambia, Namibia or Angola.
Levy Mwanawasa, the Zambian president, called on all African nations not to allow the weapons on their territories in justified fear of the violence they could provoke. The United States government also exerted pressure on the two remaining hypothetical destinations of the lethal ship, Namibia and Angola, not to allow the delivery of the weapons on their territories.
Under pressure from African countries, civic groups and the United States to recall the arms ship, China’s initial response was that the weapons had been legally purchased over a year ago. They, however, later announced through the foreign minstry that the boat had been called back due to its inability to deliver the weapons.
The crisis is one of the main items on the agenda of the Council of the European Union (EU) ministers of Foreign Affairs, slated to take place Tuesday, in Luxembourg. This follows the targeted sanctions applied by the EU, a “travel ban” as well as a ban on visas imposed by the European Union member countries on 98 Zimbabwean officials, including President Mugabe and his wife.