“No crisis” in Zimbabwe – Mbeki

SA president says poll result delays are part of a “natural process”

HARARE (Sapa-AFP) - South African President Thabo Mbeki said Saturday there was "no crisis" in Zimbabwe after holding his first face-to-face talks with Robert Mugabe since the country's disputed March 29 elections.

Mbeki, who stopped in Harare on his way to join southern African leaders in Zambia for an emergency meeting on Zimbabwe, said people should wait for the election commission to announce the long-awaited presidential result.

"There has been a natural process taking place and we are all awaiting the ZEC (Zimbabwe Electoral Commission) to announce the results and there is also the matter of the court case," he said, referring to an opposition legal bid to force the result.

"The body authorised to release the results is the ZEC, let's wait for them to announce the results," Mbeki said.

As president of the regional power South Africa, Mbeki has come under fire for his muted response to the situation in Zimbabwe where two weeks after the presidential election no result has yet been announced.

Mugabe, who has kept a low profile since the polls, did not mention the election but denied he was snubbing the Southern African
Development Community (SADC) summit in Lusaka called by Zambian President Levy Mwanawasa.

"We are very good friends and very good brothers. Sometimes you attend, sometimes you have other things holding you back," he said.

Mbeki confirmed he had met earlier in the week with opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai, who is claiming outright victory in the poll and has called on Mugabe to stand down.

The opposition says Tsvangirai won enough votes to be assured of the presidency and accuses Mugabe of leading an intimidation campaign that would render any second ballot undemocratic.

"They don't see why there is a need for a re-run," Mbeki said.

"If nobody wins a clear majority the law provides for a second run.

If that happens I would not describe it as a crisis. It's a normal electoral process in terms of the law of Zimbabwe."

Tsvangirai was in Lusaka, pressing his claim to have won the poll and urging regional leaders to pressure Mugabe to stand down so he can form a government of national unity.

Mbeki was the chief mediator between Zimbabwe's governing ZANU-PF party and Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change in the build-up to the election.

His comments after meeting Mugabe were similar to his earlier remarks one week ago, when he urged "patience" and described the situation in Zimbabwe as "manageable."
Mbeki's rival and likely successor Jacob Zuma, the head of South Africa's ruling African National Congress party, has been far more outspoken on the crisis facing the country's northern neighbour.

"Zimbabwe is something we need to take very serious note of," he said late Thursday in the South African city of Durban.

"We have never heard of elections being conducted and counted and the commission not allowing the result.

"I have never heard of this. It is only in Zimbabwe. It is unprecedented. I think we should urge and plead with our brothers and sisters to resolve the problem so that Zimbabwe will not be plunged into a more serious crisis."
Zuma, who met with Tsvangirai earlier in the week during the opposition's first foreign trip since the elections, toppled Mbeki from the helm of the ruling party last December.

Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) called Friday on Zimbabweans to launch a general strike next week and to remain off work until the result of the election is made public.

In a sign of the growing tension in Harare, police announced Friday a ban on all political rallies and riot police could be seen deployed on street corners.