Zimbabwe’s election crisis continues, three weeks after a vote that seemingly brought an end to the rule of President Robert Mugabe. But official results of that election have still not been released, and election officials have announced plans for a recount of both the presidential and parliamentary votes in 23 districts. In a separate development, the Mugabe government has accused opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai of treason, saying that he plotted with former colonial power Britain to force regime change in Zimbabwe.
Election officials had earlier announced that the main opposition party – Movement for Democratic Change – won the most seats in Parliament. It cost the ZANU-PF governing party control of the lower House of Parliament for the first time since independence in 1980. However, a recount of the March 29th election, switching the results in many of those seats, would allow the ruling party of President Mugabe to reclaim its majority.
But Zimbabwean journalist Peta Thorneycroft says Zimbabweans have become used to what she calls a “very uneven administration of justice” in their country. Speaking with host Judith Latham of VOA News Now’s International Press Club, Ms. Thorneycroft says what actually happens depends on the judges so one should not be surprised by their decision on releasing the election results. She describes the elections as “fatally flawed.” According to Peta Thorneycroft, independent sources say that the Movement for Democratic Change won “fair and square” in the parliamentary vote and was clearly leading in the presidential vote.
VOA correspondent Delia Robertson, watching from her post in Johannesburg, says this week’s political developments leave the people of Zimbabwe in limbo, at least until Saturday’s recount has been completed. But beyond that, she says, the opposition and non-governmental organizations are concerned that the ballot boxes are being stuffed with ballots for President Mugabe in exchange for ballots cast for Mr. Tsvangerai. Furthermore, Delia Robertson says international observers are noting an increase in intimidation and violence in Zimbabwe, particularly in the rural areas where the opposition has strong support.
Reporter Peta Thorneycroft says Zimbabweans are facing a situation of increasing instability, and she believes it is likely that the original parliamentary election results will be overturned. Furthermore, she calls the whole process “absurd” and similar to that in a “banana republic,” but what is “most shocking” about the situation is that Zimbabwe’s neighbors in Africa are quiet about it. According to independent political commentators, Peta Thorneycroft says, South African President Thabo Mbeki has actually sided with President Mugabe. She refers to Mr. Mbeki’s meeting with Mr. Mugabe last Saturday in Harare, after which he was reported to have announced, “There is no crisis in Zimbabwe.” In fact, she says, there is a “humanitarian crisis on every corner of every street in Zimbabwe.” And among ordinary Zimbabweans, she adds, there is a sense of “unmitigated despair and also sorrow, combined with hunger.” The humanitarian crisis stems from an economy in shambles. The policies of the Mugabe government are widely blamed for an 80-percent unemployment rate and an annual inflation rate of 165,000 percent.
In addition, Delia Robertson says an estimated 3 million Zimbabweans are in South Africa as economic and political refugees, so South Africans are well aware of the magnitude of the crisis. Richard Cockett, Africa editor for The Economist magazine, suggests that South Africa President Mbeki is out of touch with his own constituency. Mr. Cockett also notes that just after the March 29th election, when President Mugabe lost the majority in the National Assembly, he was “wobbling” and wondering if he should go, although he later rallied and decided to fight. Richard Cockett calls the Zimbabwean electoral commission’s decision to recount the vote an “extremely bad sign” for the opposition. On Tuesday, the opposition tried to organize a national strike to protest the absence of election results, but most Zimbabweans went to work as usual.
Meanwhile, South Africa’s ruling party, the African National Congress, has called the situation in Zimbabwe “dire.” The U.N. Security Council met Wednesday to discuss Zimbabwe’s post-election crisis, and Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called on Zimbabwe to release the results of the presidential election. On Thursday, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice urged Zimbabwe’s neighbors to press for an end to the crisis, saying that the Mugabe government’s new accusations of treason against opposition candidate Morgan Tsvangirai have heightened Washington’s concerns about the situation. This on the eve of Zimbabwe’s 28th anniversary celebration of independence on Friday, when President Mugabe denounced Britain, its former ruler! And on Friday, Zimbabwe's High Court rejected the opposition demand that it stop a partial recount of the results from last month's elections.
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