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Zimbabwe Opposition Says Ruling Party Obstructing Election Appeal

Robert Mugabe (File photo)
Zimbabwe's main opposition party says the ruling party is thwarting its legal efforts to prove that President Robert Mugabe lost the 2002 presidential election to Morgan Tsvangirai.

The Movement for Democratic Change, MDC, disputes the result of the 2002 presidential election, saying it was rigged and that voters were subjected to threats and violence.

According to MDC spokesperson for legal affairs David Coltart the party is following the legal process of dealing with such complaints, but getting justice is proving to be an uphill task.

Speaking to journalists in Harare, Mr. Coltart said the Registrar General's office failed to bring all ballot boxes to its Harare offices soon after the poll as required by law.

It took a series of court orders, starting in September 2002 and culminating in a contempt of court charge against the Registrar General earlier this year, before he partially complied, Mr. Coltart said.

The high court gave the Registrar General 10 days to comply, but until Monday some ballot boxes were nowhere in sight. Then an extra seven boxes from the first constituency to be investigated suddenly surfaced. The seals on the boxes were broken.

Mr. Coltart said MDC attempts to take pictures of the boxes to use as evidence in court failed.

"Both the representatives of the civil division of the Attorney General's Office and the legal representatives of Mr. Robert Mugabe objected to us taking photographs, and it is on that basis and the fact that we now have these extra ballot boxes that caused us to abandon the process [of photographing the boxes] pending a further application that will have to be brought before the high court," he said.

Mr. Mugabe's legal team could not be reached for comment.

The MDC has filed with the Supreme Court to nullify President Mugabe's 2002 re-election and is also challenging some results of the March parliamentary poll.

But because the party abandoned the challenges of the 2000 parliamentary elections before the courts addressed them earlier this year, some people feel that the challenges are an exercise in futility.

The MDC's Mr. Coltart disagrees.

"The bringing of these cases underlines, underscores, the illegitimacy of this regime; shows that these are not frivolous arguments that we have raised, that they are based in fact," he said. "It politically reinforces our contention that this is in fact an illegitimate regime and that the only way of resolving the crisis in Zimbabwe is by restoring legitimacy."

Mr. Coltart said this legitimacy can only be reached by holding fresh presidential and parliamentary elections that comply with Zimbabwean law and are open to local and international scrutiny."

Party President Morgan Tsvangirai also attended the press conference. He addressed the issue of the role of South Africa's President Thabo Mbeki, who has come under criticism for keeping silent on the Zimbabwean crisis. Mr. Tsvangirai recently met with Mr. Mbeki.

"The problem is not with President Mbeki, the problem is in Zimbabwe with President Mugabe, and that if President Mugabe realizes that he has put the country in a cul-de-sac and that he needs to negotiate himself out of an irreconcilable corner I think we will continue shouting at President Mbeki without necessarily solving the problem," he said. "I think what President Mbeki can do, which he assured me he is going to do is to change tack, to change strategy around how to influence the course of events in Zimbabwe."

Mr. Tsvangirai did not give any details of the South African president's new approach to help resolve the Zimbabwe crisis.