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Opposition Strike Falters in Zimbabwe

A call by Zimbabwe's opposition Movement for Democratic Change for a national strike was largely ignored by Zimbabweans, most of whom reported for work Tuesday. And, as VOA's Delia Robertson reports from our southern Africa bureau in Johannesburg, South Africa's ruling African National Congress says it will seek meetings with both ruling and opposition parties in Zimbabwe.

The Movement for Democratic Change called for Zimbabweans to stay home from work indefinitely to register their protest at what the party sees as the deliberate withholding of the tally in the presidential poll, held more than two weeks ago. As in the past, the call went largely unheeded.

Zimbabwe has 80 percent unemployment and inflation running more than 100,000 percent; the loss of a day's wage is something few can afford.

Fear may also be a factor. The police said Monday the strike call was aimed at disturbing the peace and promised to deal severely with any unrest.

Independent human rights groups have reported several incidents, including attacks on opposition or independent poll monitors; two killings and more than 20 victims of violence have been hospitalized. The independent Media Monitoring Group of Zimbabwe says state-owned radio stations are broadcasting songs that foster violence against opponents of the government.

Meanwhile, South Africa's ruling party has called the situation in Zimbabwe dire and says it will seek to meet with both the ruling and opposition parties in Zimbabwe. The aim is to see if contacts at the party level can assist in breaking the crisis caused by the failure of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission to release the result of the presidential poll.

African National Congress Secretary-General Gwede Mantashe told a media briefing that the speedy release of the result is crucial.

"You cannot allow a situation where you sit on the results," Mantashe said. "You create an environment where there must be violence; you hear all sorts of rumors of the deployment of military all over the country; we are saying as the ANC it is not acceptable."

The African National Congress has been more critical than South African president Thabo Mbeki, who last weekend said the there was no crisis in Zimbabwe.

Mantashe says as mediator appointed by the Southern African Development Community, Mr. Mbeki must be seen to be impartial.

"The president of the Republic is a mediator in that situation. Half the time when he speaks [about Zimbabwe] he does no speak even for the South African government, he speaks for SADC," Mantashe said.

A Zimbabwe court has postponed until Wednesday a hearing on an application by the MDC to block a recount of all the ballots in 23 constituencies scheduled for this Saturday.