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Mugabe's ZANU-PF struggles in partial vote recount

President Robert Mugabe appears unlikely to win back control of parliament in a partial vote recount after a police crackdown on members of the opposition.

world Updated: Apr 27, 2008 02:35 IST
Cris Chinaka

President Robert Mugabe appeared unlikely on Saturday to win back control of parliament in a partial vote recount after a police crackdown on members of the opposition, which accuses him of stealing the poll.

Some 13 seats have been recounted so far. Mugabe's ruling ZANU-PF must win nine of 10 remaining constituencies to take back control of parliament, according to the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC), the state-run Herald newspaper reported in its Saturday online version.

On Friday, Mugabe resorted to strong measures used in the past to keep the opposition in check.

Armed riot police raided the headquarters of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) and detained scores of people in the toughest measures against the MDC since disputed elections last month, officials said.

Angola said a Chinese ship with arms bound for Zimbabwe would be allowed to offload some cargo, but not the weapons, in a move that appeared to mark a shift in policy by neighbours, South African President Thabo Mbeki in particular.

The MDC says its leader Morgan Tsvangirai beat his old foe Mugabe in the March 29 election, and results showed it had also ended the ruling party's 28-year hold on parliament.

A delay to the presidential result and a recount of some parliamentary votes has brought growing international pressure on Mugabe, 84, and stoked fears of bloodshed in a country already suffering an economic collapse.

Former colonial power Britain, which Mugabe blames for Zimbabwe's troubles, requested a meeting of the U.N. Security Council, the first session on the post-electoral crisis in Zimbabwe, said a Western diplomat.

South Africa's U.N. envoy Dumisani Kumalo said his country would not oppose the move. He said someone from the U.N. secretariat would brief the 15-nation council, probably on Tuesday, on developments in Zimbabwe.

The Western diplomat on the council said any action in the form of a statement or resolution was unlikely. But the meeting would be useful in ratcheting up pressure on Mugabe, who the MDC accuses of delaying results of the poll to rig victory.

Torture allegations

Zimbabweans face severe shortages of basic goods and a staggering inflation rate of 165,000 percent -- the world's highest.

Dozens of riot police detained around 100 MDC supporters who were taken away in a crowded police bus, a Reuters witness said. The MDC said 200 to 250 police took part in the raid and they also took away computers used by the election command centre.

An MDC statement said armed police took away hundreds of people who had sought sanctuary at the party's headquarters after fleeing various parts of Zimbabwe, "where the regime has been unleashing brutal violence".

Police said the raid had targeted people who had sought refuge with the opposition after committing crimes outside Harare.

"Some of them are not office workers at all. We are busy screening them. There are some cases we are investigating and we will release those who have not committed any crime," said police spokesman Wayne Bvudzijena.

South Africa's eTV showed footage of heavily bandaged Zimbabweans in a hospital who said they were tortured because they were suspected of being MDC members. One of them had what he said were burn marks over much of his back.

Mugabe, a hero of the independence struggle, accuses the opposition of conspiring with Western critics to end his 28-year rule, which began with high hopes that Zimbabwe would become an African model of democratic and economic success.

Opening Zimbabwe's international trade fair in Bulawayo on Friday, Mugabe renewed his attacks on Western foes for leading what he called a shameless campaign against his government.

The state-run Herald newspaper called African leaders "myopic stooges" for joining Western criticism of Zimbabwe's handling of the election.

The top US diplomat for Africa, Assistant Secretary of State Jendayi Frazer, met Tsvangirai in South Africa and "they agreed that, given the long delay, any results will have limited credibility at this point," a US Embassy statement said.

"We assured the MDC that we would look at additional international action to address, and bring attention to, the evolving human rights and humanitarian crisis in Zimbabwe," Frazer said.

Zimbabwe's justice minister hit back.

"Frazer's comments expose Tsvangirai and his MDC for what they really are -- an Anglo-Saxon project designed to defeat the gains of the liberation struggle," Patrick Chinamasa said in a statement on Zimbabwean television.