Mugabe heads for summit trouble

EMBATTLED President Robert Mugabe, buffeted by fresh problems after his recent election defeat ,

by the MDC’s Morgan Tsvangirai, is heading for further trouble at the Sadc summit in Zambia tomorrow. The meeting is likely to be a critical turning point in Sadc leaders’ ways of tackling the Zimbabwe crisis, currently the focus of a watching world as the country heads for a dramatic transition.
Sadc chairperson, Zambian President Levy Mwanawasa, said the urgent meeting was called for because of the “deepening problems” in the country.
Sadc leaders are said to be geared to confront Mugabe over the Zimbabwe situation this time after their persistent failure to do so in the past.
Diplomatic sources said Mugabe will travel to Zambia with a detailed “dossier” to defend himself on why he has ordered the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) to withhold recent presidential election results.
The sources said the dossier contains Mugabe’s appeal for a vote recount and the alleged prejudice he suffered due to miscounting of votes. The dossier contains Zanu PF’s letter demanding the recounting of votes in 21 constituencies and details the arrest of ZEC officers on alleged vote fraud charges. There is also a series of bound intelligence reports on the elections.
Supporting annexures are attached to the dossier.
The dossier claims that the United States’ State Department and other Western governments, as well as donors, were involved in the alleged electoral fraud to ensure Mugabe was defeated.
It further claims that the State Department provided funds to pay a team of ZEC officers through NGOs and civil society groups to cover the MDC’s tracks.
But court charges against a ZEC officer, Virginia Sibanda, accused of corruption during elections appeared to be collapsing this week in Bulawayo after the state struggled to substantiate its allegations.
The collapse was similar to the failure of Zanu PF’s charges of terrorism against MDC activists arising from an alleged spate of petrol bombings by opposition militants last year.
Mugabe took a dossier last March to a Sadc emergency meeting in Dar-es-Salaam to defend his regime after Tsvangirai and other opposition leaders were brutally assaulted in police custody.
The dossier proved to be deceptive after the claimed petrol bombings seemed to be contrived by the state to justify a crackdown against the opposition.
Zanu PF, sources said, wants to repeat the same trick in Lusaka tomorrow even though it didn’t completely work the first time.
The current dossier tries to suggest the recent polls were fraudulent to justify the ruling party’s attempt to limit damage over its defeat and persuade regional leaders to endorse a re-run.
The dossier also attempts to whitewash Zanu PF’s blatant manipulation of the electoral process.
To counter this web of deceit, Tsvangirai this week launched a regional diplomatic offensive ahead of tomorrow’s summit to ensure that Sadc leaders are not taken in by Harare’s explanations.
Tsvangirai met with Botswana’s new president Ian Khama on Wednesday. Prior to that he had met South Africa’s governing ANC president Jacob Zuma.
He is expected to travel to Mozambique to meet President Armando Guebuza and later Mwanawasa.
“The purpose of Tsvangirai’s visit is to explain and mobilise Sadc leaders to persuade Mugabe to accept the
results and allow a transition to take place,” MDC spokesperson Nelson Chamisa said yesterday.
Chamisa said it was not true that Tsvangirai had fled the country as some reports suggested.
Tsvangirai’s diplomatic trips are expected to give Mugabe a hard time in Lusaka.
Mugabe has directed the ZEC not to release results, demanding a recount of votes despite Information minister Sikhanyiso Ndlovu’s claim that there has been no government interference with the ZEC.
Ndlovu said Zimbabwe would tomorrow “appraise the regional bloc of political developments in the wake of the elections”.
Tsvangirai’s lawyers wrote to the ZEC on Monday arguing that Mugabe’s demand for a recount of votes is unlawful. They said the law only allows Mugabe to file an election petition to the courts if he felt aggrieved by the results as Tsvangirai did after the disputed 2002 presidential election.
The lawyers urged ZEC to reject Mugabe’s request, failure to do which they will pursue the matter in court.
The MDC lawyers have already taken ZEC to court over its failure to release the presidential results. Ruling on the case is expected on Monday.   

Zanu PF has also demanded a recount of votes in 21 rural constituencies. The MDC lawyers said some of the demands were invalid because complaints were lodged after the 48-hour window allowed by the law.
Sources said Zanu PF’s strategy is to delay the release of the results to create circumstances for a presidential poll re-run. The party now wants a run-off only if a re-run is not possible.
Zanu PF leaders think a re-run is better because a new candidate could be fielded if the need arose, something not possible in a run-off. If a recount of votes succeeds in most of the 21 constituencies, as it already has in the case of Bikita South where Elias Musakwa has now won after losing in the initial vote count, that would give Zanu PF the required parliamentary majority to be able to govern.
It is said Mugabe is under pressure from hardliners around him, including state security service chiefs, to hang on to power. The diehards want him to fight on to block Tsvangirai from taking over.