Mugabe stalls; white-owned farms pillaged

HARARE, Zimbabwe (AP) — President Robert Mugabe’s ruling party demanded a vote recount and a further delay in the release of presidential election results, the state Sunday Mail newspaper reported, while militants seized equipment and livestock from white-owned farms.

The opposition Movement for Democratic Change, which claims its leader Morgan Tsvangirai won the March 29 presidential ballot outright, said it would not accept a recount and pressed ahead with legal attempts to force publication of the results.

Meanwhile, farmers reported that militant supporters of the ruling party had invaded eight of the country’s few remaining white-owned commercial farms.

Police later persuaded the militants to leave farms in southern Masvingo district, but even as that was happening two more farms were invaded in northern Centenary, the Commercial Farmers Union reported.

“I’ve got one farmer and his wife with two young children, and people banging on windows, ululating and beating drums and telling them to vacate the farm” in northern Centenary, farmers union leader Hendrik Olivier told the Associated Press.

Mr. Mugabe has ruled since his guerrilla army helped overthrow the white minority government in 1980. His popularity has been battered by an economic collapse after the often-violent seizures of white-owned commercial farms since 2000. About 5,000 farms were seized, and only 300 white farmers remain on the land.

Official results for the March 29 parliamentary elections held alongside the presidential race showed Mr. Mugabe’s Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front losing its majority in the 210-seat House of Assembly for the first time in the country’s history. Eight days later, election officials still had not released the results of the presidential race.

Unofficial tallies by independent monitors showed that Mr. Tsvangirai won more votes than Mr. Mugabe, but fewer than the 50 percent plus one vote required to avoid a runoff.

The High Court heard testimony yesterday afternoon from opposition party attorneys who lodged an urgent petition demanding publication of the election results. Reporters were not admitted to the court hearing. Armed police prevented opposition attorneys from entering the court on Saturday but were not present yesterday.

Opposition party attorney Andrew Makoni said the High Court judge would rule today on the petition.

The opposition has said it was not hopeful of the outcome. Zimbabwe’s courts are stacked with Mugabe sympathizers who have delayed hearing opposition challenges to results of 2002 and 2005 elections.

The opposition said it would not accept a recount and did not want a runoff.

“How do you have a vote recount for a result that has not been announced? That is ridiculous,” said opposition spokesman Nelson Chamisa.

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