Thursday, June 26, 2008

Zimbabwe Elections Bulletin: Run-off Still On Says ZEC; Leaders Boycott SADC Meeting; Leave Us Alone West Told

Run-off still on: ZEC

Herald Reporter

THE Zimbabwe Electoral Commission yesterday unanimously agreed to proceed with the presidential run-off election tomorrow as scheduled because Morgan Tsvangirai’s withdrawal has no legal force since it was filed out of time.

ZEC — which was appointed by Zanu-PF and MDC-T — and all other political parties that contested the March 29 harmonised elections, under the Sadc-brokered talks, said it has since advised Tsvangirai about the decision in writing.

ZEC chairman Justice George Chiweshe said the poll would go ahead as Tsvangirai, who claims his security is under threat, briefly left the Dutch embassy in Harare to address a Press conference at his Strathaven home in Harare.

Tsvangirai called for military intervention in Zimbabwe disguised as peacekeepers and the setting-up of a transitional government supervised by the African Union and Sadc.

Addressing journalists, Justice Chiweshe said the commission had deliberated on the content and effect of Tsvangirai’s letter in which he cited various reasons and concluded that the withdrawal was a nullity.

"It was unanimously agreed that the withdrawal had, inter alia, been filed well out of time and that for that reason the withdrawal was of no legal force or effect.

"Accordingly, the commission does not recognise the purported withdrawal. We are, therefore, proceeding with the presidential run-off election this Friday as planned. The ballot papers have been printed and dispatched. We are advising Mr Tsvangirai accordingly," he said.

Justice Chiweshe said the electoral law stipulates the period during which a candidate must file a withdrawal letter.

"I do not want to go into that. We will be writing to Mr Tsvangirai on the issue," he said.

When asked whether the withdrawal by Tsvangirai would have an effect on the legitimacy of the poll, Justice Chiweshe said: "The pullout has no legal force. In fact, there has been no pullout."

Justice Chiweshe said the commission was ready for the elections and that the results of the presidential run-off would be announced as soon as they were ready.

Constitutional law experts have said Tsvangirai cannot pull out of the run-off now and even though he has written to ZEC, the decision was of no legal force.

"The strict legal position is that candidature for the run-off or second election is not a voluntary exercise; you give your consent when you contest the first election," lawyer Lovemore Madhuku said.

Political analysts have described Tsvangirai’s withdrawal announcement, which was made just before the UN Security Council met to discuss Zimbabwe, as a ploy to create a bleak picture of the Zimbabwean situation.

The Dutch foreign ministry yesterday confirmed Tsvangirai returned to their embassy.

Zanu-Ndonga has joined the list of organisations that have castigated the opposition leader for his decision to withdraw from the poll.

"Boycotting without offering an alternative is not the solution. The decision to pull out does not make any political sense," said Zanu-Ndonga secretary-general Mr Reketayi Semwayo at a Press conference.

The party’s national organising secretary, Mr Gondai Vutuza, said it is Zimbabweans who have the mandate to find a solution to the challenges facing the country and not outsiders as claimed by Tsvangirai.

"Zimbabweans should decide their future and not any other person. It is us who should decide.

"The two presidential candidates should engage each other for political dialogue with a view to coming up with a solution. The search for solutions should obviously include every stakeholder," said Mr Vutuza.

Late yesterday, the Sadc election observer mission said it would remain in Zimbabwe until after the June 27 run-off, and that it was not bound by the decision of the Troika on Politics, Defence and Security, which met in Mbabane, Swaziland, yesterday.

Head of the election observer mission Angolan Minister of Youth, Sport and Culture Mr Jose Marcos Barrica told journalists that the issue of whether or not there are elections in Zimbabwe is the responsibility of the Zimbabwean Government and ZEC.

"We will stay put until after June 27 be there elections or not. We may have our ideas, but that is the responsibility of the authorities," he said.

Mr Barrica said the mission was only bound by Sadc and not the troika.

He said the mission had made inroads in trying to bring the political players in Zimbabwe to the negotiating table.

"There are positive signals that can take the process forward. There is light at the end of the tunnel that can bring the two sides together. We think we have the way prepared for the leadership to go forward," he said.

Responding to questions on the mission’s position following reports that members of the Sadc troika that met yesterday in Swaziland had recommended that tomorrow’s run-off be postponed, Mr Barrica said the troika only deliberates on issues and does not make resolutions.

Leaders boycott Sadc summit on Zimbabwe

Herald Reporters

A meeting of the Sadc Organ on Politics, Defence and Security in Swaziland to ratchet up pressure on Zimbabwe to call off tomorrow’s presidential election run-off flopped yesterday after Angola, the chair, and South Africa, the mediator, boycotted the summit.

A Government official, who is well-versed with the operations of Sadc, yesterday said Angolan President Jose Eduardo dos Santos and his South African counterpart Mr Thabo Mbeki — the Sadc-appointed mediator for Zimbabwe — did not attend the summit.

President Jakaya Kikwete of Tanzania and King Mswati of Swaziland attended the meeting.

"It was a bilateral meeting between two countries, it can never be a troika meeting. Troika means three and the deputy chair cannot call a meeting when the chair is there.

"Their resolution has no force in respect to Sadc, let alone Zimbabwe. The two countries (Tanzania and Swaziland) are only expressing an obligation to the Western world," said the official.

Tanzania and Swaziland called for the postponement of the presidential run-off.

Political analysts said Sadc needs to stand by President Mugabe since there were concerted efforts by Britain, America and their allies to divide the regional grouping and give space to their regime change agenda.

The analysts said Britain and the United States were clandestinely holding separate talks with Sadc member states in order to entice the regional bloc to change its stance and isolate Zimbabwe.

"Recently, Zambian President Levy Mwanawasa admitted that he was being pressurised by the British and Americans to isolate Zimbabwe.

"Sadc should also be cognisant of the fact that a weaker Sadc, without strongmen like President Mugabe, could easily give in to demands by the US such as the setting up of its military base, the Africom, which it is desperate to establish by September 2008. So Sadc needs to rally behind Zimbabwe now than ever before.

"It is clear that if Sadc stands firmly with Zimbabwe, the West will say it is not effective and democratic, but what is happening in Zimbabwe can happen to any other Sadc country. So the solution is for Sadc to remain focused on supporting President Mugabe,’’ said one analyst.

Last night, Local Government, Public Works and Urban Development Minister Cde Ignatius Chombo said MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai was a political weakling who never takes any "struggle" to the bitter end.

"He lacks determination, stamina and endurance to see things to the bitter end," Cde Chombo said.

"He has tried to pre-empt his imminent defeat on Friday by pulling out."

After their attempts to get the United Nations Security Council to declare Tsvangirai president of Zimbabwe failed on Tuesday, the US and British governments have now resorted to shrill threats in their attempts to stop the presidential run-off set for tomorrow.

On Monday, London and Washington unsuccessfully tried to get the Security Council to declare Tsvangirai the ‘‘legitimate president’’ of Zimbabwe basing on the March 29 elections but other members — led by China, Russia and South Africa — indicated that it would be illegal to stop the run-off.

Legal experts across the political divide have since indicated that the run-off is a legal fait accompli.

Western media yesterday quoted British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, during his weekly question time, threatening to push the European Union for more sanctions against Zimbabwe as US Ambassador to Zimbabwe James D. McGee issued a veiled threat to the Government, saying ‘‘the US would take ‘expected’ steps’’.

The EU imposed economic sanctions on Zimbabwe following the expulsion of Pierre Schori, head of its observer mission to the 2002 presidential poll, for violating his visa conditions.

This is the second time in as many months that McGee has threatened violence on the State following a letter he wrote to the media last month, saying the US was gathering
‘‘evidence of the atrocities being committed’’ so that the perpetrators can be brought to book.

McGee called on Sadc to impose sanctions on Zimbabwe, saying that would not be difficult since Zimbabwe was landlocked, though he expressed pessimism that Sadc would sell out Zimbabwe.

Brown’s threats came as the England and Wales Cricket Board backed his decision to ban Zimbabwe’s cricket team from the UK.

"We want to ensure that Zimbabwe does not tour England next year," Brown said. "And we will call on other countries to join us in banning Zimbabwe from the Twenty20 tournament," which is being held in Britain next year.

Zimbabwe was scheduled to play next June in the Twenty20 World Cup in England. The team was also due to play England in two Tests and three one-day matches.

Analysts said the desperation by Tsvangirai and his allies in London and Washington was clear proof that they knew their game was up in Zimbabwe.

Leave us alone, West told

By Chaka Chidyamatiyo, Sydney Kawadza and Takunda

BRITAIN and its allies should stop commenting on Zimbabwean issues because the country is no longer under colonial rule, President Mugabe has said.

Addressing thousands of Zanu-PF supporters at rallies in Rushinga, Centenary and Mahuwe in Mashonaland Central yesterday, Cde Mugabe said Zimbabwe was facing economic hardships because of some Zimbabweans who accepted exploitation by the British.

"We are now an independent country and no longer under British colonial rule. Zimbabwe is now for the black people. Hatidi kunzwa maBritish achitaura nezvenyika iyi, havanei nezvayo. Hatichada kunzwa maAmericans achitaura nezvayo, havanei nezvayo futi," he said.

The President said whites were angered when the Government reclaimed land and allocated it to blacks who were overcrowded in infertile rural areas.

The whites, he said, realised that they had been overpowered and decided to employ the new tactics of establishing puppet governments.

"They (British) then sought an organisation that was constantly quarrelling with Government. They found ZCTU, then led by Tsvangirai," he said, adding that the British even raised funds to support such puppet parties and governments.

"Tinonzwanana nedzimwe nyika, asi kunzwanana chete. Usahwira haureve wava mwene wenyika yedu kana wavakuyera mitupo yedu. Iwe uri kwako nemutupo wako," he said.

Cde Mugabe said such friendship was not a passport for some countries to meddle in Zimbabwe’s internal affairs.

He pledged the Government’s commitment to continue investing in education through computerising schools and developing townships and business centres in rural areas.

"We would like a situation whereby townships would have generators to complement Zesa power supply. In the health sector, we want each district to have a clinic, a hospital and, above all, a provincial hospital," he said.

Government, Cde Mugabe said, had a mammoth task to repair and construct new roads and was working hard to inject more funds into the projects.

President Mugabe said the Government had imported more than 690 000 tonnes of maize from South Africa and had contracted 1 049 trucks to help speed up the imports. He said the Government was aware of the tactics of unethical businesses who continue to increase prices causing suffering among the people.

"We are going to deal with these businesspeople. This is going to be our number one agenda after the election," he warned.

Cde Mugabe said Government had come up with the concept of People’s Shops at growth points and service centres to make basic commodities available at affordable prices.

"Mitengo tinoda kuti idzike pasi-pasi. Tinoda kubatsira vanhu nokurwisa vane mitengo yepamusoro kuti tivakaurise."

He said three People’s Shops would soon be commissioned at Mahuwe Business Centre.

He urged Zimbabweans to vote for the ruling party to show the world their resolve to defend the country’s sovereignty and independence and avoid betraying the liberation struggle through the ballot.

"Musi uyu (tomorrow) ngationei kuti penzura yatevera gwara regidi reChimurenga, tose tonovhota pamasvingo, tione kuti mavhotera VaMugabe. Tikatadza ipapo tingasekwa nepasi rose. Kwatiri kuenda kuswera mangwana kune nyaya yakakosha. Tinoda kuti tibude shudhu hapana anosara," he said.

President Mugabe, who chronicled how the liberation struggle started in Mashonaland Central especially in Centenary, urged the people not to betray the spirit of Mbuya Nehanda who hailed from the area.

"Imi muri province yeChimurenga izere nokuti kuno ndikokwakabva Ambuya Nehanda.

"Tinoziva kuti vanhu vanorwadziwa nekuti mitengo iri kukwira, mari iri kuramba ichiderera zvoremera vabereki. Tinazvo zvichemo izvozvo, tiri kuzvipodza."

Biti bail application ruling set for today

Court Reporter

THE High Court is expected to make a ruling today in the application for bail pending trial by MDC-T secretary-general Tendai Biti, who is facing charges of treason, communicating statements prejudicial to the State, causing disaffection among the defence forces and insulting the President.

Justice Ben Hlatshwayo, who heard the bail application, said he needed time to consider submissions made by both the defence and prosecution.

Biti’s lawyer, Mr Selby Hwacha, implored the judge to grant
Biti bail saying this would not prejudice the administration of justice.

He said his client was facing treason, a very serious offence, that attracts the death penalty, but this was not sufficient basis to refuse him bail at this stage.

"The facts on the ground indicate that the charges in the manner, form and substance have no gravity and stand no chance of being sustained at trial," said Mr Hwacha.

He said the prosecution’s case was "fanciful, porous and predicated on inadmissible evidence".

But Chief Law Officer Mr Joseph Jagada argued the treason charges could force Biti to abscond since he was likely to be slapped with the death sentence or a lengthy prison term.

Mr Jagada said investigations were still at an infant stage and there was nothing to warrant the release of Biti on bail.

He said Biti, as an influential person locally, was internationally connected and as such he could skip the country to avoid trial.

"He is not a proper candidate for bail," he said.

Biti, who was arrested two weeks ago at the Harare International Airport soon after his arrival from South Africa, is facing charges arising from a document entitled "The Transition Strategy" he allegedly authored on March 25.

It is alleged that some parts of the document were treasonous, prejudicial to the State, insulted the head of State and caused disaffection among the Zimbabwe defence forces.

In another case, MDC-T MP-elect for Buhera West Eric Matinenga was released from remand prison on Tuesday after the State failed to file its appeal to the Supreme Court against the magistrates’ court’s decision to grant him bail.

Matinenga’s lawyer, Mr Chris Mhike, confirmed the release of his client yesterday.

Mr Mhike yesterday filed contempt of court application against the authorities for allegedly defying a court order issued by Justice Alfas Chitakunye to release Matinenga after magistrates in Rusape refused to preside over the MP-elect’s case.

Judge President Rita Makarau, who heard the case in her chambers, reserved judgment.

Matinenga was arrested for allegedly inciting political violence that rocked the Murambinda area in Buhera.

He is alleged to have held a meeting attended by 60 MDC activists at Nerutanga Business Centre, where he is said to have thanked the party’s activists for unleashing a reign of terror on war veterans and Zanu-PF supporters in Buhera.

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