SADC calls for poll postponement

Zimbabwe’s presidential run-off election scheduled for 27 June should be called off, regional leaders meeting in Swaziland said on Wednesday

“If the election were to be held under present circumstances, it would compromise the credibility and legitimacy of the results,” said a statement released by King Mswati III, Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete and a representative of Angolan Prime Minister, Fernando dos Santos.

“If this call is heeded, the ruling party and the opposition party should engage in meaningful talks,” the statement by the three leaders representing the Southern African Development Community’s (SADC) “crisis troika” dealing with the Zimbabwe elections.

“The people of Zimbabwe can solve their own problems,” the leaders concluded, after an expression of disappointment at the withdrawal from the elections of opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai.

As SADC vice chairman, King Mswati opened Lozitha Palace to the gathering after the meeting was switched for unknown reasons from Angola.

Most media attention, however, was directed at the non-appearance of South African President Thabo Mbeki, the SADC mediator on Zimbabwe. A representative of the SADC secretariat told reporters that Mbeki had made a lengthy submission to King Mswati in a telephone conversation on Tuesday night.

The call for a postponement of Friday’s election was delayed for more than five hours, as the three leaders were reportedly deadlocked on such points as the extent of the criticism to be leveled at Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe over the political violence unleashed by his ZANU-PF party.

However, the declaration by SADC that the run-off would be illegitimate was the strongest position yet taken by the 14-member organisation against Mugabe.

Previously, SADC was united in its approach to the country, preferring behind the scenes diplomacy and characterising the Zimbabwean crisis as an internal matter best handled by the people of Zimbabwe themselves.

jh/oa