Southern Africa could impose travel sanctions on Zimbabwe gov’t

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The Southern African Development Community is showing signs of being fed up with Zimbabwe and has given Saturday as the day for the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission to release the presidential results.

from our correspondent in Harare

It says it will accept no more excuses from the ZEC if it fails to release the elections by Saturday.

SADC sent its observer team back to Harare last week to observe the recount of the 23 disputed constituencies where Zanu-PF claims there were irregularities.

The ballots for the disputed constituencies in presidential, senatorial and parliamentary polls, which took place four weeks ago, are being recounted.

Said a senior SADC observer who asked not to be named: “I don’t
know why we are recounting — it doesn’t make sense to us. We are expecting the recount to be done by Saturday, then it will be up to them to announce. But, really, there is no excuse any more.”

Beyond Saturday the SADC would not accept claims that the release of results had been affected by logistical difficulties, the initial pretext, or by disputes, the reason given a week after polling.

And in another warning sign for Robert Mugabe, Tanzanian President Jikaya Kikwete, also the chairperson of the African Union, has privately said he would be willing to explore the option of convening an African Union summit on the issue.

This would be a serious slap in the face for President Thabo Mbeki as it would signal that regional mediation efforts have failed.

On Thursday South Africa’s official opposition called on the South African government to press for Zimbabwe’s expulsion from the AU and the imposition of travel sanctions on Zimbabwean government officials entering South Africa, in the manner of the European Union and the United States.

It is understood SADC observers have picked up discrepancies during the recount, because some ballot books have gone missing.

Ballot papers were originally bound in a booklet resembling a cheque book, from which they were torn and given to voters to cast their votes. The stubs are used for verification.

SADC sources said ballot boxes had been moved from locations where the ZEC had stored them to places such as shopping centres, where the
counting was done. Party agents brought their own tallies of the original count.

Zimbabwean Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) said anomalies noted during the recount had resulted in police arresting presiding officers suspected of malpractice.

At one recounting centre three presiding officers had reportedly
been arrested.

The ZLHR complained that “recounting has been notoriously slow in an environment of increasing anxiety, violence and harassment of perceived supporters of the opposition, with alleged active involvement of senior members of the ruling party”.

In further pressure on Zimbabwe’s increasingly besieged ruling party, ANC president Jacob Zuma has thrown his weight behind efforts to deal
with the electoral impasse in Zimbabwe. He told Reuters during a visit to
Europe this week that “leaders in Africa should really move in to unlock
this logjam”.

Zuma accused the Zimbabwean Electoral Commission of destroying its own credibility by not releasing the results.

MDC president Morgan Tsvangirai this week also broadened his campaign for regional support in the quest to break the impasse.

Last week, Tsvangirai asked the SADC to remove Mbeki as mediator in the Zimbabwean crisis.

Meanwhile, civic society organisations here have submitted a dossier to SADC detailing alleged state-sponsored violence against hundreds of
opposition supporters since the March 29 elections.

The dossier was handed to SADC Observer Mission head José Marcos
Barrica and the director of the regional bloc’s organ on politics, defence
and security, Tanki Mothaey.

It contains photographs of injuries sustained by victims of the violence and affidavits they wrote to vouch for the alleged torture at the hands of state security agents, Zanu PF militia and war veterans.

The photos showed victims’crushed hands and legs, broken arms, haematomas of buttocks, missing teeth and other bodily harm.

In a report released by civil society, Barrica — Angola’s Sport and Youth minister — condemned political violence, adding that the Zimbabwe
Electoral Commission (ZEC) should not hold Zimbabweans hostage by failing to announce the presidential election outcome and stretching the recount of votes in 23 constituencies longer than anticipated.

“The minister said that it was necessary to look for ways and means to
end the suffering of the people,” the report said.

“Some people would speak about the necessity of a military intervention. Others would ask for a violent uprising. Some politicians were speaking about a war.”

Barrica, however, stressed to civil society that the objective was to
ensure that no war situation would arise in Zimbabwe.

Civil society representatives at the meeting claimed that Zimbabwe was
now in a “war situation”.

“The civil society organisation representative pointed out that it was not a question of observing elections any more, but that it was a question of peacekeeping,” the report said.

It was suggested during the meeting that Sadc should not be limited to
election observation, but would have to find a way of stopping and
preventing the violence in Zimbabwe.

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