Page last updated at 12:18 GMT, Friday, 11 April 2008 13:18 UK

Mugabe rival 'meets SA president'

Morgan Tsvangirai (1 April 2008)
The MDC is refusing to take part in a run-off

Zimbabwe's Movement for Democratic Change leader Morgan Tsvangirai has met South African President Thabo Mbeki, the Zimbabwean opposition party says.

An MDC spokesman said the meeting had taken place on Thursday, in preparation for Saturday's regional summit on the outcome of Zimbabwe's March elections.

It is not clear whether President Robert Mugabe will attend.

Results from presidential polls held 13 days ago are not out, but the MDC claims Mr Tsvangirai beat Mr Mugabe.

The MDC is refusing to take part in any run-off.

The party originally reported that Mr Tsvangirai had won 50.3% of the vote, enough to avoid a second round, but on Thursday said broader results since then suggested it had done even better.

We're cautiously optimistic about the outcome
Nqobizitha Mlilo
Movement for Democratic Change

It says the delays amount to "a constitutional coup d'etat" and has asked the High Court to compel the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) to release the results.

But the body says it is unable to release the results as long as the matter is before the court, Zimbabwe's state-controlled Herald newspaper reports. A ruling is due on Monday.

Zimbabwe's Information Minister Sikhanyiso Ndlovu says the ruling party is also eagerly awaiting the results.

"I would like to state in unequivocal terms that it is not true that the president nor government is holding the Zimbabwe election results," he told the Herald.

On Thursday, Zimbabwe's deputy information minister said Mr Mugabe would attend a Southern African Development Community (Sadc) summit if there was one on Saturday.

However, in comments to Reuters new agency on Friday, Bright Matonga said Zimbabwe had received an invitation, and was "considering the matter", casting doubt on whether the 84-year-old leader will attend.

Growing concern

MDC spokesman Nqobizitha Mlilo said the meeting between Mr Tsvangirai and Mr Mbeki, ahead of the Sadc summit in Zambia, "went well".

South African President Thabo Mbeki in the UK, 5 April, 2008
The South African president has been leading mediation efforts

"We're cautiously optimistic about the outcome," AP news agency reports him as saying.

Mr Mbeki was appointed by the 14-nation Sadc grouping to lead mediation efforts last year between President Mugabe's Zanu-PF party and MDC.

The BBC's Peter Biles in Johannesburg says that even in South Africa, known for its "quiet diplomacy" in dealing with Mr Mugabe, there is growing concern about the delay in releasing the results.

He says there is a fear that the political vacuum in Zimbabwe could lead to violence.

The MDC opposition claims this is already happening and has produced what it says is a copy of the government's military plans to deploy soldiers across the country.

In the meantime, concerns have been expressed that the National Command Centre in Harare, where the election results were being collated, has now been dismantled.

The opposition believes that operations have been moved to a secret venue - to which its election agents have no access.


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