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Friday, 15 March, 2002, 12:46 GMT
South Africa puts pressure on Mugabe
Zanu-PF supporters
Mr Mugabe's supporters have been celebrating
South Africa is pressing President Robert Mugabe to defuse international condemnation of Zimbabwe's election by forming a government of national unity.

Mr Mugabe is due to be sworn in for his fifth term as president on Sunday in the face of mounting accusations that last weekend's election was neither free nor fair.

Robert Mugabe
Mr Mugabe has won six more years
According to newspapers in South Africa and Britain, President Thabo Mbeki is trying to persuade Mr Mugabe to form a government with defeated opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai.

Quoting official sources in both governments, the Johannesburg Star said that Vice-President Jacob Zuma had conveyed the message to Mr Mugabe on Thursday on a visit to offer him congratulations.

The Zimbabwean Government had rejected the proposal, the paper said.

But analysts say that South Africa, as the regional superpower, is in a position to exert pressure as it provides vital economic assistance to Zimbabwe.

The Pretoria government is meanwhile apparently seeking to amend an endorsement of the election made by the South African vice-president.

The elections were legitimate, are valid, they were free and fair and we've got to respect that

Jacob Zuma
South African vice-president
A remark made by Mr Zuma during his visit that the Zimbabwean election had been "legitimate, valid, free and fair" was later qualified by a spokesman for President Thabo Mbeki.

Mr Bheki Khumalo said that it would be wrong to take a "definite position over the freeness and fairness of the poll" until a meeting of the Commonwealth committee appointed to review it.

South Africa is due to meet its two fellow members of the "troika", Nigeria and Australia, in London on Tuesday.

Election observers from South Africa have already described the election as neither free nor fair, although they did say it was "legitimate".

Ceremony rescheduled

Zimbabwean state radio announced on Friday morning that Mr Mugabe would be sworn in at State House in Harare on Saturday - only to change the day to Sunday a few hours later.

"It's on Sunday," Regis Chikowore, an official at the Information Ministry, told Reuters news agency.

"I think these are last-minute changes," he said without offering any further explanation.

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Mr Mugabe himself has made no public statement since his victory.

In power since 1980, he officially defeated the leader of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) by 56% to 42% of the vote.

The opposition has received one lift, however, with the victory of its candidate, Eng Mudzuri, in the contest for mayor in the capital, Harare.

The election was held at the same time as the presidential poll.

MDC spokesman Learnmore Jongwe said the government had been able to "rig" the vote in rural areas, but not the cities.

Mr Mugabe's victory at the polls has been questioned around the world:

  • The parliamentary forum of the Southern African Development Community said the election "did not comply with [its] norms and standards"
  • UK Foreign Secretary Jack Straw described the result as a "tragedy" for the people of southern Africa as both Britain and the US consider sanctions
  • New Zealand's Prime Minister, Helen Clark, said the Commonwealth had to take action over Zimbabwe if it was to be taken seriously as an international organisation
  • MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai described the result as "daylight robbery"

The BBC's Duncan Hewitt
"Zimbabwe's leader is facing increasing isolation"
Election observer Tulay-ah-min Kalomoh
"No-one has come out with any specific incidents of vote rigging"
New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark
"It was impossible to have (an election) that was fair and free"

Key stories





See also:

14 Mar 02 | Africa
14 Mar 02 | UK Politics
13 Mar 02 | Africa
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