News / Africa

Zimbabwe Poll Date in Flux After Regional Body Calls for Delay

Botswana President Ian Khama (L) walks alongside Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe (R) during a lunch break at the SADC summit in Maputo, June 15, 2013. Botswana President Ian Khama (L) walks alongside Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe (R) during a lunch break at the SADC summit in Maputo, June 15, 2013.
x
Botswana President Ian Khama (L) walks alongside Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe (R) during a lunch break at the SADC summit in Maputo, June 15, 2013.
Botswana President Ian Khama (L) walks alongside Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe (R) during a lunch break at the SADC summit in Maputo, June 15, 2013.
Anita Powell
Regional leaders have requested that Zimbabwe’s government delay upcoming elections to give the troubled nation time to make sure the vote is free and fair. 

President Robert Mugabe set elections for July 31, saying he was complying with a ruling of the Constitutional Court.  The request from the Southern African Development Community (SADC) supports the argument of Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, who says more time is needed for democratic reforms to be implemented under the country’s new constitution.  

The 15-member Southern African Development Community said it has asked Zimbabwe’s government to ask the Constitutional Court to extend the poll date beyond July 31. SADC did not specify a new election date, and there has been no clear date from Zimbabwean officials.

“What summit recommended was in recognizing that there was a need to give more time," said SADC Secretary-General Tomaz Salomao, speaking at Saturday’s summit in Mozambique’s capital. "It was agreed that there is a need that the government of Zimbabwe engage the constitutional court to request for more time beyond the deadline of 31st of July.”

But it remains to be seen whether President Mugabe, who is well-known for his trenchant opposition to being told what to do, will heed the request.  The 89-year-old is the only leader that Zimbabwe has known since independence in 1980, and has said he plans to run for another term.

He’s also repeatedly said he wants to end the uneasy coalition that SADC forced him to form with Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change, or MDC after the violent and disputed 2008 poll.

Mugabe’s spokesman did not answer calls seeking comment.  But Tsvangirai has said he will challenge any date that comes before reforms for electoral laws and laws that limit freedom of expression and association are made.  

Spokesman Douglas Mwonzora, an MDC spokesman, says he’s confident the needed reforms can be completed in two weeks.

“We are happy that the SADC has now, at last, reined in on Mugabe," he said. "Because Mugabe is acting unilaterally.  He is acting as if he has bought the court because he made the law, he made the electoral law by decree.  We want elections in Zimbabwe as soon as possible, but we want elections under conditions that will guarantee a good result.”

But, Mwonzora noted, the former opposition party is not leaving anything to chance with a president who he compares to Adolf Hitler.  Mugabe has been accused of using his security forces to intimidate and punish those who oppose him, and rights groups have said his forces have used torture against dissidents.

“It’s not an unfair comparison, actually.  He has said himself that he is a Hitler three-fold, or ten-fold," he said. "But I am just explaining this to show that appeasement does not work.  There is no reason why the world should ignore a dictator who is abrogating the rights of his people left, right and center.  We have a constitution that must be followed.  And Mugabe is simply not following the constitution.”

For that reason, he says, the party has asked Mugabe to follow SADC’s request, but has also had the prime minister approach the court to do the same.

More importantly, Mwonzora says, the extra two weeks will allow a critical constituency to register to vote: Zimbabweans living abroad.  Some 1.5 million Zimbabweans are thought to have relocated to neighboring South Africa, and many here say they left home because they oppose Mugabe’s regime.  If they are allowed to vote, they could make a big impact on the outcome of the elections.

You May Like

Video British Fighters on Frontline of Islamic State Information War

It’s estimated that several hundred British citizens are fighting for Islamic State alongside other foreign jihadists More

Pakistan's Political Turmoil Again Shines Spotlight on Military

Thousands of protesters calling for PM Sharif to step down continue protests in front of parliament, as critics fear political impasse could spur another military coup More

Photogallery Ebola Quarantines Spark Anxiety in Liberian Capital

Food prices rise sharply as residents attempting purchases clash with security forces, leaving one person dead More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Native Bees May Help Save Cropsi
X
Deborah Block
August 22, 2014 12:23 AM
U.S. President Barack Obama has called for a federal strategy to promote the health of bees that have been declining. The honeybee has been waning due to parasites, disease and pesticides. Wild bees may be used to take over their role as crop pollinators. Scientists first need to learn a lot more about wild bees, says biologist Sam Droege, who is pioneering the first national inventory on native bees. VOA’s Deborah Block went to his research laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland, to bring you more.
Video

Video Native Bees May Help Save Crops

U.S. President Barack Obama has called for a federal strategy to promote the health of bees that have been declining. The honeybee has been waning due to parasites, disease and pesticides. Wild bees may be used to take over their role as crop pollinators. Scientists first need to learn a lot more about wild bees, says biologist Sam Droege, who is pioneering the first national inventory on native bees. VOA’s Deborah Block went to his research laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland, to bring you more.
Video

Video US Defense Officials Plan for Long-Term Strategy to Contain Islamic State

U.S. defense officials say American air strikes in Iraq have helped deter Islamic State militants for the time being, but that a broad international effort is needed to defeat the extremists permanently. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel warned Thursday that the group formerly known as the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL, is better organized, and financially and militarily stronger than any other known terrorist group. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Drug-Resistant Malaria Spreads in Southeast Asia

On Thailand’s border with Myanmar, also known as Burma, a malaria research and treatment clinic is stepping up efforts to eliminate a drug-resistant form of the parasite - before it spreads abroad. Steve Sandford reports from Mae Sot, Thailand.
Video

Video Gaza Conflict, Hamas Popularity Challenge Abbas

The Palestinian unity government of Mahmoud Abbas has failed to convince Hamas to agree to Egyptian-negotiated terms with Israel on a Gaza cease-fire. VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports on what the Gaza conflict means for President Abbas, with whom U.S. officials have worked for years on a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Video

Video Nigeria's 'Nollywood' Movie Industry Rolls in High Gear

Twenty years after its birth in a video shop in Lagos, Nigeria's "Nollywood" is one of the most prolific film industries on earth. Despite low budgets and whirlwind production schedules, Nigerian films are wildly popular in Africa and industry professionals say they hope, in the future, their films will be as great in quality as they are in quantity. Heather Murdock has more for VOA from Lagos.
Video

Video UN Launches 'Biggest Aid Operation in 30 Years' in Iraq

The United Nations has launched what it describes as one of the biggest aid operations in 30 years in northern Iraq, as hundreds of thousands of refugees flee the extremist Sunni militant group calling itself the Islamic State. As Kurdish and Iraqi forces battle the Sunni insurgents, the fighting has forced more people to flee their homes. Kurdish authorities say the international community must act now to avert a humanitarian catastrophe. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Cambodian American Hip Hop Artist Sings of Personal Struggles

A growing underground movement of Cambodian American hip hop artists is rapping about the struggles of living in urban America. Most, if not all of them, are refugees or children of refugees who came to the United States from Cambodia to escape the Khmer Rouge genocide of the 1970s. Through their music, the artists hope to give voice to immigrants who have been struggling quietly for years. Elizabeth Lee reports from Long Beach, California.
Video

Video African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebola

While the Ebola epidemic continues to claim lives in West Africa, information technology specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about the disease - using social media to educate the public about the deadly virus. VOA’s George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid