Page last updated at 08:01 GMT, Saturday, 19 April 2008 09:01 UK

Zimbabwe launches ballot recount

Robert Mugabe voting
The recount may lead to a run-off between presidential candidates

Election officials in Zimbabwe have started recounting some of the votes cast in disputed polls held last month.

The recount in 23 of 210 constituencies could overturn the parliamentary result which saw Zanu-PF lose its majority.

Results of the presidential poll, which the opposition MDC says it also won, have not been released. It is thought the recount may lead to a run-off vote.

Meanwhile, a Chinese ship carrying arms to Zimbabwe has left a South African port after workers would not unload it.

The leader of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), Morgan Tsvangirai, is adamant he won the presidential election outright.

His party has said Mr Tsvangirai will not contest a run-off unless certain conditions are met - such as a secure environment, with thorough international monitoring.

The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission says it cannot release the results until it investigates anomalies.

The MDC's secretary general, Tendai Biti, said the party would not accept any recount in respect of parliamentary seats "because ballot boxes have been stuffed".

"Those ballot boxes have become pregnant and reproduced," he said.

Suspicion of bias

On Friday, the high court rejected an application by the MDC to stop a partial recount taking place this weekend.

"I find no merit in the application," said Justice Antonia Guvava. "Accordingly, the application is dismissed with costs."

Robert Mugabe addresses rally 18/4/08

The ruling paved the way for all presidential, parliamentary, senate and council votes cast in 23 out of 210 constituencies to be recounted.

A change in the parliamentary result by nine seats could see President Robert Mugabe's Zanu-PF party regain its lost majority in the assembly.

The BBC's Will Ross said the independent electoral commission's decision to withhold the results and then recount the ballot papers has led to widespread suspicion of bias, especially as Mr Mugabe's Zanu-PF complained about the initial count.

On Friday, Mr Mugabe gave his first speech since the disputed elections.

Thousands of people gathered at the Gwanzura Stadium in Highfield, a suburb of Harare, to hear Mr Mugabe speak at a rally celebrating the anniversary of Zimbabwe's independence from Britain and the end of white minority rule.

The 84-year-old played a key role in the 1970s war of independence and took power as Zimbabwe's first prime minister in 1980 on a wave of popular support.

Dockers intervene

Mr Mugabe took to the stage to rapturous applause to celebrate what he described as the day on which the "nation finally shook off the chains of British racist settler colonialism".

I predict that the situation will end up like Kenya. Mugabe will be encouraged by the African Union to form a national unity government
Frank Hartry, South Africa

In his speech Mr Mugabe denounced both the opposition MDC and Britain and called on Zimbabweans "to maintain utmost vigilance in the face of vicious British machinations and the machinations of our other detractors, who are allies of Britain".

Meanwhile, Chinese cargo ship the An Yue Jiang was forced to move after a South African court refused to allow the weapons destined for Zimbabwe which are on board to be transported across the country.

Dock workers had refused to unload the weapons shipment from the vessel, which had been anchored off the port of Durban for four days.

The South African Transport and Allied Workers Union had said it did "not agree with the position of the government not to intervene".

Reports say the An Yue Jiang is carrying three million rounds of ammunition, 1,500 rocket-propelled grenades and 2,500 mortar rounds.


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