Mbeki withholding information pertaining to Zimbabwe meeting

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Zambian President Levy Mwanawasa Sunday called for the postponement of Friday’s presidential run-off elections in Zimbabwe, saying the deteriorating situation will not warrant free and fair elections.

Mwanawasa, speaking in his capacity as chairperson of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), said the current situation in Zimbabwe did not allow for free and fair elections and that elections held in such an environment “will bring embarrassment to SADC, as well as to Africa”.

Election run-off unlawful

“Elections must be postponed to a later stage to allow for the establishment of conditions suitable for holding genuine, free and fair elections and in accordance with Zimbabwean laws as well as SADC principles. This has become even more necessary following announcement by one of the candidates that he was pulling out. There is no need to be ashamed of postponing the elections,” Mwanawasa said at a press conference held at state house.

Mwanawasa also said that the current political situation in Zimbabwe ahead of the elections fell short of SADC guidelines, adding that the conduct of free and fair elections was not just judged by the election day itself.

He observed that there had been numerous incidents of political violence in Zimbabwe and that political parties were not allowed to hold rallies and that free campaigns were not allowed and the opposition were being denied access to the public media.

“I am appealing to relevant parties in Zimbabwe to ensure that they take measures which will prevent the escalation of violence in Zimbabwe,” he added.

Members reticent

Mwanawasa explained that in the past five days he had tried to contact SADC heads of state in the region to get their approval on the proposal to postpone the elections in Zimbabwe but that he had only managed to speak to four heads of state from the 14 leaders in the region.

Mbeki not helping

Asked whether South African President Thabo Mbeki had briefed him on his last meeting with President Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe, Mwanawasa said, “I feel disappointed that as chairperson of SADC am being denied information and I have to rely on intelligent reports gathered in Zimbabwe and media reports.”

“I rang President Mbeki yesterday and I was told he was in a meeting and that they will call me later but they didn’t phone me and when I rang again I was told he was in a meeting.”

Opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai announced that he was pulling out from the p residential run-off scheduled to take place Friday.

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