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Mugabe silent on Bush re-election

Gift Phiri/Dumisani Muleya

ZIMBABWE yesterday refused to say whether or not President Robert Mugabe would congratulate United States President George Bush on his re-election on Wednesday, as mixed reactions

to the poll in the world’s only superpower continued to flow in.

Government spokesman George Charamba said President Mugabe had not yet commented on Bush’s re-election.

Charamba’s initial reaction was that Bush’s re-election had nothing to do with Zimbabwe.

“What has Mr Bush’s win got to do with the Zimbabwe government?” Charamba asked. “We will do something in terms of international diplomacy. The Zimbabwe government will do what happens in the world of diplomacy. We have our schedule. That is going to be done.”

Charamba said it was encouraging that losers in the US election accepted defeat with “grace and dignity”.

“Losers in America lose with their grace and dignity, not some characters who think courts can compensate for lack of popular win,” he said.

Mugabe has since his own controversial re-election in 2002 blasted Bush’s initial election in 2000, which was marred by controversy in Florida.

Opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) leader Morgan Tsvangirai challenged Mugabe’s re-election in the courts. Tsvangirai described Mugabe’s re-election as “daylight robbery”. The case is still in the courts.

While Zimbabwe dithered over how to react, neighbouring South Africa made its position on Bush’s re-election clear. In a carefully worded statement, President Thabo Mbeki congratulated Bush on his victory but included a thinly-veiled criticism of American foreign policy.

“The United States election has run its dramatic course and President Bush will be serving a second term. The government and people of South Africa, in wishing him well, will fervently hope for greater world stability and peace under his leadership of the United States,” he said.

“We look forward to renewed support for, and interest in, Africa and the developing world, reform of world institutions and an era of multilateralism marked by a concerted drive to deal decisively with the challenge of poverty and underdevelopment. Senator (John) Kerry ran a good campaign. We congratulate him too.”

Bush won with 274 electoral college votes and a majority of 3,7 million popular votes over his opponent in an election even the losers conceded was free and fair. Kerry phoned Bush to concede defeat and Bush congratulated him for giving a good run for his money.

MDC spokesman Paul Themba Nyathi said: “The MDC will work with any country that is supportive of the democratic aspirations of the people of Zimbabwe.”

South Africa’s University of Witwatersrand international relations analyst Professor John Stremlau said while other leaders scrambled to condemn Bush’s re-election, Mbeki’s relationship with the American president was “professional and statesmanlike”.

Although Mbeki has always criticised American foreign policy and its negative impact on global peace, he has avoided counterproductive vitriol associated with anti-American leaders.

The outcome has been welcomed by Russia’s Vladimir Putin and Uganda’s Yoweri Museveni. But while France’s Jacques Chirac called to congratulate Bush, his countrymen and many others in Western Europe greeted the news with dismay as a result of the Iraq conflict and abrogation of the Kyoto protocol.

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