Opposition denounces backlash

Although the aftermath of the election has so far been largely peaceful, Zimbabwe's opposition MDC party accused hardline Mugabe backers of intimidating and attacking opposition supporters.


Zimbabwe's opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai urged the leaders of southern Africa on Wednesday to use their influence to help prevent his country from sliding into chaos following disputed elections.

As his party accused President Robert Mugabe's supporters of pursuing a campaign of violence and intimidation, the Movement for Democratic Change leader embarked on a regional tour designed to build pressure on his rival.

MDC lawyers meanwhile were trying to persuade the high court to order the immediate release of the results of the March 29 presidential election in which Mugabe was seeking to extend his 28-year grip on power.

After holding talks with new Botswana President Ian Khama, Tsvangirai said it was in the interests of the whole of the region to defuse the growing crisis in Zimbabwe.

"I will be going around the countries in the region to make that point that it does not need that political chaos and dislocation" on their doorstep, Tsvangirai said in an interview with South Africa's SABC public radio.

The MDC said Tsvangirai would also travel to two other of Zimbabwe's neighbours, Zambia and Mozambique, as part of a post-election diplomatic drive.

"The purpose is to get assistance form the region to resolve our own problems," said MDC spokesman Nelson Chamisa.

"He is doing rounds in the region -- Lusaka, Gabarone, Maputo. He is going to make sure there is an understanding of the dire consequence we find ourselves in as a country."

In a press conference on Tuesday, the MDC hit out at what it called the "deafening silence" of African governments over the continuing failure of the Zimbabwean authorities to announce the election result.

In his radio interview, Tsvangirai reiterated his claim he was the clear winner over Mugabe but said the country would remain in paralysis as long as the Zimbabwe electoral commission (ZEC) sat on the official results.

Although "we all of us know the result, we say we should wait for ZEC to announce it and so we are trying to emphasise that President Mugabe must do honourable thing and accept defeat so we can really move forward," he said.

Tsvangirai also confirmed he wanted to establish a national unity government but indicated there would be no role for Mugabe in an MDC-led administration.

"Once this deadlock around the result is resolved then we must move towards forming a government that is going to create space for everyone," said Tsvangirai.

"That (a role for Mugabe) would be subject to discussions but our advice would be that he has served long enough and I think it's time for him to take his retirement."

Mugabe, the 84-year-old who has led the former British colony since independence in 1980, has remained largely silent since he cast his vote, but his ruling party has pre-empted the result by calling for a total recount.

The state-run Herald newspaper, the mouthpiece of his regime, ran a front-page story on Wednesday claiming that Tsvangirai had "begged" to be appointed Mugabe's vice-president.

Although the aftermath of the election has so far been largely peaceful, the MDC said hardline Mugabe supporters had begun intimidating and attacking opposition supporters.

"By yesterday we had received reports of 200 people who have either been assaulted or chased away from their homes or intimidated in one way or another," said Chamisa.

"Villagers have been beaten, some of our agents and candidates have been tracked and some fled their homes. People are in distress," he told AFP.

"And the reason they are being given is that they voted the wrong way."

There was no immediate way of confirming the MDC's claims although they follow reports that Mugabe loyalists have also invaded several dozen of the country's last white-owned farms.

Meanwhile the Harare high court was holding a second day of hearings into an MDC application for the electoral commission to order an immediate release of results. It was not clear when the judge would pronounce his verdict.

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