SADC to meet again on Zimbabwe violence

McGee

Washington & Harare:Leaders of the Southern African Development Community were expected to
gather for another extraordinary summit on the crisis in Zimbabwe amid
mounting pressure from the African Union and Western governments for the
regional group to act decisively to stamp down political violence and press
Harare to conclude presidential voting.

Continued attacks on opposition members in Zimbabwe’s rural areas by youth

militia of President Robert Mugabe’s ZANU-PF party, liberation war veterans

and members of the armed forces are complicating efforts by SADC and other

concerned parties to induce Harare to set a firm date for the presidential

run-off vote it has called.

But once the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission has set a date for the run-off

there will be increased pressure for SADC and possibly the African Union to

dispatch election observers to the rural areas allegedly being terrorized by

Mugabe partisans.

Tsvangirai on Tuesday was meeting with Lesotho Prime Minister Pakalitha

Mosisili in Maseru in an effort to pressure SADC leaders to ratchet up

pressure on Harare to halt what his party and most other observers say is a

state-organized campaign of political violence aimed at the opposition and

rural voters who backed it on March 29.

MDC Secretary General Tendai Biti told reporter Blessing Zulu of VOA’s

Studio 7 for Zimbabwe on Tuesday that he is concerned that the Zimbabwe

Electoral Commission has yet to set a date for the presidential run-off

election.

Nigeria on Monday called for AU observers to be deployed for the run-off to

“show solidarity.and help avoid a breakdown of law and order.” Nigerian

Foreign Minister Ojo Maduekwe told reporters he took up the question with

South African President Thabo Mbeki and Zimbabwean Foreign Minister

Simbarashe Mumbengegwi.

Mr. Mbeki has been SADC’s mediator in Zimbabwe since March 2007, but SADC

itself has stepped up diplomacy through its so-called Zimbabwe troika

comprising Tanzania, Angola and Swaziland coordinated by SADC Executive

Secretary Tomaz Salamao.

The opposition Movement for Democratic Change formation of presidential

candidate – and first-round frontrunner – Morgan Tsvangirai has repudiated

Mr. Mbeki as mediator, accusing him of providing political cover for Mr.

Mugabe.

Even if run-off election date is set, the allegedly state-sanctioned

violence would make it problematic and possibly extremely dangerous for

Tsvangirai to campaign in rural areas beset by youth militia and war

veterans brandishing AK-47 assault rifles.

The government itself has been arresting MDC officials including opposition

politicians elected to parliament in the March 29 elections that ushered in

the present crisis, and opposition officials say Tsvangirai could be subject

to arrest upon his return to Zimbabwe from South Africa, where he has been

based in recent weeks.

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