The United States’ top diplomat for Africa said on Sunday any national unity government in Zimbabwe should be headed by opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai, who Washington believes won a March 29 election.
While a partial election recount showed the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) wrested a parliamentary majority from veteran President Robert Mugabe’s Zanu-PF for the first time since independence in 1980, results of a parallel presidential poll have not been released.
Election officials said they hoped to compile all statistics from the presidential election by Monday for verification by the candidates before they are published.
They are expected to signal a run-off between Mugabe and Tsvangirai, who says he won the election outright.
“The key here is that the people’s will be respected,” Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Jendayi Frazer said in an interview.
“So if there is going be an inclusive government …, if you want to use the word, government of national unity, I believe it should be led by whom the people voted for which is Morgan Tsvangirai,” she said in Zambia, part of a regional tour in which Zimbabwe has been a focus of talks.
A commentary in Zimbabwe’s state-run Herald newspaper last week floated the idea of a unity government, led by Mugabe. The MDC has said any government it would form would be inclusive, but has not spelled out details.
Frazer, who has also visited South Africa and Angola, also said regional leaders had to tell Mugabe loud and clear that post-election violence — in which the MDC says at least 15 people have been killed — had to end immediately.
Africa’s response to the post-election turmoil including the arrest of scores of opposition members has been muted overall, although states have called for a speedy release of results.
“I think that the region needs to speak very, very loudly and very clearly to President Mugabe and his government to say that the violence must come to an end immediately. It’s unacceptable to beat people just because they decided to go out and vote, and apparently to vote for change.”
The government denies it is waging a campaign of violence.
The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission said on Saturday it did not know when the presidential results would be published, but it hoped to compile the recount statistics by Monday and then invite candidates to check results before making them public.
Until now, Parliament has been little more than a rubber-stamp for Mugabe’s policies. But if he remains president, his loss of Parliament would make governing more difficult because he would need opposition support to pass legislation.
An editorial in Zimbabwe’s pro-opposition The Standard urged Tsvangirai to boycott any run-off since it would be a “charade”.
The weekly said on Sunday a free and fair vote was not possible in the current environment, and called on the MDC to focus on collecting evidence of violence to help prosecute Mugabe’s Zanu-PF supporters in the future.
The MDC initially said it would contest a run-off despite feeling elections had been rigged. Tsvangirai has said he would not accept a runoff and also that he would contest, if it was supervised by international observers led by the United Nations.
Mugabe, a hero of the independence struggle, accuses the opposition of plotting with Western critics to end his three decades in power, which began with hopes that Zimbabwe would become an African model of democratic and economic success.
Today, Zimbabweans face severe shortages of basic goods and an inflation rate of 165,000 percent — the world’s highest. – Reuters