6 June 2008

Zimbabwe: Opposition Leaders Gloomy on Run-off Election

Cape Town — Zimbabwean opposition leaders have expressed deep pessimism over the potential of the June 27 presidential election run-off to end the country's political crisis.

Speaking at a session of the World Economic Forum on Africa, they differed, however, on suggestions that the elections should be postponed and a government of national unity formed.

Simba Makoni, a former finance minister and an unsuccessful candidate in the first round of the presidential election on March 29, said the election should be delayed until conditions had been established for fair polling.

"Conditions have been created in the country as a whole, but particularly in the rural areas, where there is no prospect of any semblance of a free and fair election," Makoni said. "Even if by the remotest of chances we could have an election whose results would resemble the will of the people, it would still not resolve the crisis. Neither of the two leaders... would be able to form an effective government if they won the run-off."

He called for a government of national unity "that involves all key players so that we can take the country forward and redeem people from the hell on earth that they are in at the moment."

Tendai Biti, secretary-general of the Movement for Democratic Change – which won the parliamentary election on March 29 – agreed that "if this run-off takes place, there will be no winner – despite whatever result is announced."

The MDC saw the run-off as "merely legitimizing the kleptocracy" of the Zimbabwean Electoral Commission's announcement that neither MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai nor President Robert Mugabe had won the first round of the presidential vote. The MDC was against the run-off in principle and was reluctant to join it, "but we are ready for it and we are campaigning."

He warned that if the election closed doors to "democratic accommodation, democratic rehabilitation" it could lead Zimbabwe into war.

"The regime is increasing the decibels of insanity. At every level it is telling the international community in a loud and clear voice that it is not prepared to play by the rules, it is not prepared to listen to logic, and most importantly it is not prepared to listen to democracy and the voice of its people."

Arthur Mutambara, the leader of a smaller, breakaway wing of the MDC – recently released from detention in Zimbabwe for criticizing Mugabe – said there could be no government of national unity "between the victims of genocide and genocidal maniacs."

"When you look at… the democratic forces in this election represented by Morgan Tsvangirai [on the one hand] and the forces of evil, the despotism of Robert Mugabe on the other hand, you can't afford to be neutral," he told the forum.

"Please good people, do not encourage genocide," he added. "What is happening in Zimbabwe is moving in the direction of full-scale genocide. In the last 72 hours we have lost eight activists. In the last four weeks we have lost 60 people. People are dying because brother Robert Mugabe wants to win the run-off by any means necessary, at any cost.

"When you talk about a government of national unity, about stopping the run-off, be careful, because the danger is when you say Zimbabweans must talk and so on, and don't condemn the genocide, you are encouraging Mugabe to use genocide to get his presidency, and then to say, 'Brother Mbeki, facilitate dialogue between me and the MDC.'"

Addressing leaders of the Southern African Development Community, the African Union and the wider international community, he added: "You are encouraging genocide if you do not… tell Robert Mugabe and Zanu PF today that, 'If you get into power on June 27 through murder, torture and fraud… we won't recognise that government.' That message must go out today from Mbeki, from the SADC, from the AU."

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