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Analyst Questions Call for Zimbabwe National Unity Government

In Zimbabwe, the state-run Herald newspaper published an opinion piece today calling for a government of national unity led by President Robert Mugabe.

Pro-government commentator Obediah Mukura Mazombwe says neighboring countries should help broker a deal, political tensions make it difficult for a presidential run-off between Mr. Mugabe and MDC opposition party candidate Morgan Tsvangirai. Weeks after the election, results in the presidential race still have not been released, despite talk of a run-off. The MDC says it won the election outright.

Some question the validity of the opinion piece, saying Mazombwe holds no official position in the ZANU-PF ruling party.

For an analysis of what appeared in The Herald newspaper, VOA English to Africa Service reporter Joe De Capua spoke to independent analyst Herman Hanekom. From Cape Town, he reacted to the call for a national unity government led by Robert Mugabe.

“I find it rather strange because (Tendai) Biti, the secretary-general of the MDC, yesterday (Tuesday) in an interview, said that the MDC, if they’re in power, will install a government of national unity, but not including Mugabe. He will have to gracefully retire from politics. So we have the government-supported newspaper and the opposition in conflict with one another again,” he says.

The article suggests that political tensions make a run-off impossible. Asked whether this might be a way for ZANU-PF to admit defeat and yet save face by having Mugabe party of a national unity government, Hanekom says, “Yes, I think you’ve got a point there, that they definitely have been defeated but they don’t know how to handle the issue. They’re trying their best through [the] delayed announcement of results and recounting at the insistence of ZANU-PF of certain constituency votes, hoping to find sufficient errors to get them in the majority again. But I think the fact that the results for parliament were posted outside the polling stations, that to gerrymander the results now will give their game away. So, I don’t expect that we will even hear results this week, maybe one or two, but not more.”

On attempts to end the political crisis in Zimbabwe, Hanekom says, “They (ZANU-PF) definitely are playing for a second round of presidential elections, where I am quite sure they have sufficiently cooked the books, but now how to release those figures without provoking what I will call violent reaction from the opposition is the problem that they are struggling with at the moment. However, the longer they keep it in abeyance, the greater the suspicion on the final count that the electoral commission will release, which of course brings into play the question of credibility of the election results and then the candidates.”

Hanekom says he doesn’t foresee large-scale violence against the Mugabe government, but rather “independent little pockets” around the country. “The major problem I see at the moment for the MDC is that both Biti and Morgan Tsvangirai are outside the country, which leaves us to look upon the party as suffering from a leadership void at the present moment, regardless of modern communication techniques.”

Tsvangirai is visiting Mozambique, after recent trips to Ghana and Nigeria, trying to gain support from other African countries.