South African leaders pressure Mugabe to postpone Zimbabwe election
Robert Mugabe, the Zimbabwean President, has reportedly been forced to climb
down from a unilateral decision to hold elections on July 31 following a
meeting of southern African regional leaders in Mozambique.
By Peta Thornycroft, and Aislinn Laing in Johannesburg
Mr Mugabe was on Saturday night understood to have been told that the date
he set should be delayed by up to 30 more days to allow for new voters to
register, and reforms to the media and security services to take place.
The recommendation for a delay came from Jacob Zuma, the South African
president nominated by the Southern African Development Community to lead
mediation efforts in Zimbabwe. South Africa is among SADC nations who have
been asked to lend up to £100 million to fund the polls.
Tendai Biti, a senior figure in Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s party and
Zimbabwe’s finance minister in the coalition government, told The Sunday
Telegraph by phone that the intervention by the regional leaders was
“historic” and has opened the way for “free and fair” elections in Zimbabwe.
It is understood that Mr Tsvangirai and Welshman Ncube, the two leaders of
the parties in coalition with Mr Mugabe’s Zanu PF, united to challenge Mr
Mugabe and insist on key reforms laid out as part of the agreement of their
coalition government formed after violent and disputed elections in 2008.
Mr Tsvangirai, leader of the Movement for Democratic Change, said on Friday
that Mr Mugabe was acting “unlawfully and unconstitutionally” by using a
presidential decree to set elections, and hinted he would boycott an early
Mr Mugabe is said to have mounted a spirited defence of his proclamation and
use of the presidential decree, telling the summit that his hand was forced
by a court order which ruled that polls should be held by July 31.
Opposition parties allege the court is partisan in favour of Zanu PF, which
commentators believe would benefit from early elections denying other
parties time to campaign.
Mr Biti said Mr Mugabe’s advisers were a “chaos” faction whose actions had
resulted in the Zimbabwean president being “embarrassed before an entire
“SADC has saved the nation by adopting fully the recommendations made by
facilitator President Jacob Zuma and therefore nullifying the proclamation.
Now Zimbabweans have an opportunity for a free and fair election,” Mr Biti
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