Wednesday, April 23, 2008

State propaganda calls for Mugabe-led unity govt

A Zimbabwean state newspaper called today for a transitional government of national unity under Robert Mugabe.The Herald, which is seen not just as a mouthpiece for President Mugabe's Zanu (PF) party but also as a barometer of its mood, said that political tensions in Zimbabwe made it impossible to hold a run-off vote.

In an editorial, the newspaper said that a transitional government should seek the help of the South African Development Community (SADC) and beyond to write a new constitution adopted after a national referendum, and to organise new elections.

“It stands to reason that, the transitional government of national unity, negotiated by the two leading contending parties, under the mediation of SADC, supported by the international community, should be led by the incumbent President,” it said.

The opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) has already rejected suggestions of a second-round of voting because it claims that its leader, Morgan Tsvangirai, won the March 29 presidential contest.The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission has yet to release any results from the presidential election, and has for some days been engaged in a recount of the parliamentary ballot, after initially announcing that the MDC had dislodged Zanu (PF) from power.

Mr Tsvangirai - who was today visiting Mozambique - has accused Mr Mugabe of trying to rig the election to cling on to power after 28 years.There are signs of growing regional impatience with Mr Mugabe from neighbours, who have until now refused to take a hard line with the former liberation hero despite an economic crisis that has brought unemployment and hunger to millions of Zimbabweans.

In an unprecedented action, southern African states refused to allow a Chinese ship carrying arms to landlocked Zimbabwe to unload.In his toughest comments yet, Jacob Zuma, leader of South Africa's ruling party leader and widely expected to be the country's next president, said: “It’s not acceptable. It’s not helping the Zimbabwean people who have gone out to ... elect the kind of party and presidential candidate they want, exercising their constitutional right.”

Source: Times Online

Angolan 'NINJAS' ready to come to Mugabe's aid

Harare - Crack Angolan troops are on standby to fly to the aid of President Robert Mugabe and his beleaguered Zanu-PF should the need arise, according to senior military sources who are becoming increasingly concerned about the turn of events.

They maintain that Angolan President Jose Eduardo dos Santos has assured Mugabe that battle-hardened troops who have seen action in the DRC conflict are ready to fly to the aid of Zanu-PF in the face of "an imperialist onslaught".What this indicates is that Mugabe and the ruling party can no longer rely on the unswerving loyalty of his armed forces, if he steals the March 29 election and provokes violent resistance.

While the top brass in the military generally support the system, the same cannot be said for many other officers. Among the ordinary ranks who, along with their families, have suffered in the desperate economic conditions, there is widespread disgruntlement.Significantly, much of the reported terror being conducted against suspected opposition supporters in the rural areas is being carried out by Zanu-PF youth militia rather than the army or police.

The existence of these gangs of young thugs and the manner in which they are conducting themselves has also contributed to the disquiet within the military and, perhaps to a lesser degree, among the police.Given rudimentary military training and immunity from prosecution, they have been turned loose in a number of areas.

In the rural Mashonaland constituency of Mutoko North, the local chairperson of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), Themba Muronde was last week beaten to death by "Green Bombers" as the youth militia are known.According to family members who have sought refuge in Harare, Muronde was dragged from his home on Sunday and severely beaten.He was still unable to move when the "Bombers" returned 24 hours later.

They dragged him from his home and beat him, apparently to death, before taking his body with them.Frightened families from rural areas in which the Bombers are operating are continuing to drift into Harare.Meanwhile, the An Yue Jiang and its consignment of weapons destined for Zimbabwe continued to mystify as it appeared on Tuesday to do another about turn and to start the long haul back home to China.

On Tuesday the container ship was spotted off Cape Town and by mid-afternoon it had apparently abandoned its attempt to dock in Namibia or Angola, and turned around to head back around the South African coast.

Source: The Independent, SA

'Chinese-looking' tanks not bound for Zim

A TRUCKLOAD of “Chinese-looking” tanks spotted by a military buff outside Pietermaritzburg early yesterday caused a brief stir over whether the controversial arms consignment bound for Zimbabwe had slipped through the net.

“Tanks? Did you say tanks,” asked Defence Secretary January Masilela. “I know nothing about that.”The tanks, under a partially open tarpaulin, were seen being driven through Cato Ridge, outside Pietermaritzburg, at 7.40am.A former military officer suggested they may form part of the controversial consignment bound for Zimbabwe.

However, ship’s clearing agent Anton van Rensburg said: “They are going to the military in the Northern Cape for joint military exercises between Singapore and South Africa. They have been temporarily imported for the exercises which will take place next week and finish in May. They are Singaporean tanks . They are definitely not going to Zimbabwe. They have got nothing to do with Zimbabwe. They will be re-exported at the end of the month.”

Van Rensburg said members of the Singaporean armed forces also arrived in South Africa, as they are the only people permitted to drive the tanks. — Sapa

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

A journey through beloved Zimbabwe..

To whom it may concern

I am not sure if this will be of interest, but I felt that I should put out there what I observed on a 5 hour drive through Zimbabwe today. I drove from Chimanimani near the Eastern border, through Mutare and then on to Harare.

The Chimanimani Arts Festival was on over the weekend and the whole 3 days passed peacefully and successfully by all accounts. On the 80 km stretch between Chimanimani and Wengezi, at one small village on the road there were a crowd of villagers, about 60 strong, who had been lined up in seated rows in a clearing under some trees.

They were being lectured to by a middle-aged man, in plain clothes, who appeared to be ranting at them. Church meeting? Village pungwe? Or ZANU PF re-education? I am not sure, but I know what it looked like.

Between Wengezi and Harare we also saw one ZANU PF pick up, with several males on board, and 4 other trucks with government plates with fair numbers of men aboard, 2 large army trucks filled with uniformed soldiers, 2 police pick ups with passengers and 4 new 4 x 4 vehicles with no number plates each with 3 to 4 male passengers.

There were around 8 police blocks altogther, mostly manned by police women and we were only stopped at one, at which the officer was very pleasant. Quite frankly the police did not seem to be interested in much but buses and trucks.

We travel this road every 4 to 6 weeks and the military traffic on the road was unusually high. But what struck us more than anything was the exceptionally high number of civilians waiting by the road trying to find transport, both in the rural areas and the towns.

In Rusape there were literally hundreds of people by the road side, all with large bundles.I have heard several first hand accounts now of beatings and torture, from people returning to work from the rural areas after the long
weekend. Apparently many of them opting for lifts in private transport after hearing accounts of thugs getting on public transport and berating or beating their, then captive, audience.

I have not personally experienced any of the horror being presently inflicted on the people of this country, but feel all those Zimbabweans with access to email and internet should be relating all they see and hear, to make as many people aware as possible of the tragedy being played out here.

The elections are being stolen again, whilst the country bleeds. Enough is really enough...

Thanks for the news

Best regards

Source: Zimbabwe Situation

Zuma urges Africa to unlock Zim 'logjam'

BERLIN (Reuters) - South Africa's ruling party leader Jacob Zuma said on Tuesday the delay to Zimbabwe's election results was not acceptable and called on African leaders to take action to solve the post-poll deadlock.

"It's not acceptable," Zuma told Reuters in an interview in Berlin. "It's not helping the Zimbabwean people who have gone out to... elect the kind of party and presidential candidate they want, exercising their constitutional right."

Zimbabwe held elections on March 29, but no result has been announced from the presidential ballot in which the opposition says it defeated veteran President Robert Mugabe. There has also been a delay to a partial recount of votes from the parallel parliamentary vote, in which the ruling party lost its majority.

"At this point in time...I imagine that the leaders in Africa should really move in to unlock this logjam," African National Congress leader Zuma said. "Concretely this means African countries should identify some people to go in there, probably talk to both parties, call them and ask them what the problem is, as well as the electoral commission," Zuma said.

Source: Reuters

Zim arms ship to dock in Namibia

A CHINESE ship carrying six containers of ammunition for Zimbabwe has applied to take on fuel at Walvis Bay this morning. The An Yue Jiang is carrying three million rounds of AK-47 ammunition,
1 500 rocket-propelled grenades and more than 3 000 mortar rounds and mortar ubes.

Attempts to get comment from Government yesterday were unsuccessful.Messages were left for Minister of Information, Joel Kaapanda, but he had not returned them by the time of going to press. Yesterday, the Legal Assistance Centre said it would approach the High Court to stop the ship from entering Namibia at Walvis Bay.

Interviewed on One Africa TV News last night, Kaapanda said he didn't know anything about the ship. He said if it docked at Walvis Bay, Government would consider "any appropriate measures", but did not elaborate.

The Minister said he wondered why such a big deal was being made about the ship. The vessel is carrying a lethal cargo. He noted that Zimbabwe was a landlocked country and often used Walvis

"I don't understand why this ship is so special," he said. The LAC called on all concerned citizens in Namibia to raise their voice against the An Yue Jiang docking in a Namibian harbour.

The ship left the South African port of Durban last week after dockworkers refused to unload the shipment and the Durban High Court barred its cargo from being transported to landlocked Zimbabwe.

The LAC's partners in South Africa - the Southern African Litigation Centre and the International Action Network on Small Arms - obtained a court order that the weapons could not be transported through South Africa. The vessel is now reported to be heading to either Walvis Bay or Luanda in Angola.

"Our concern is that Zimbabwe is a nation that has been in an escalating state of crisis," said Norman Tjombe, Director of the LAC. "To allow more weapons to enter Zimbabwe will only fuel more violence, with the serious consequence of more deaths and suffering."

The escalating violation and suppression of human rights in Zimbabwe was exacerbated by last month's disputed elections, of which the results have yet to be announced, he said.

"Namibia, and its institutions, such as the Namibia Ports Authority, has obligations under national and international law to foster international peace and the peaceful resolutions of disputes, and the responsibility and accountability in the regulation and control of the trade in conventional
arms," said Tjombe.

He said in terms of the Namibian Constitution, the Namibian State is obligated to promote international co-operation, peace and security and foster respect for international law and treaty obligations.

Namibia was also a signatory to several other international treaties, such as SADC Firearms Protocol, Protocol on Politics, Defence and Security, and the UN Programme of Action on the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects, which would all be violated if it allowed arms to enter Zimbabwe, he said.

"In the light of these obligations, it will be prudent for the Namibia Ports Authority not to allow the offloading of the deadly cargo of the An Yue Jiang vessel if and when the vessel calls on any port in Namibia," Tjombe said.

If the ship was allowed to offload and transport overland in Namibia, he said, the LAC would approach the courts. "We nonetheless trust that Namibia would adhere to its obligations under the Constitution and international law, without the need for us to approach the High Court of Namibia," Tjombe said.

Transport workers in Africa were also called on to help prevent the shipment from reaching Zimbabwe. The International Transport Workers Federation said its member trade unions and the International Trade Union Confederation must stop what it calls the "dangerous and destabilising shipment."

The International Action Network on Small Arms (IANSA) has also appealed to the governments of SADC, especially Namibia, Angola and Mozambique, to prevent the arms cargo from reaching its destination.

Trade unionists in the South African transport industry also announced a boycott of the cargo. IANSA wants the weaponry detained until Zimbabwe can prove it will not be misused to suppress the Zimbabwean people.

"We remind all southern African countries, including neighbouring Namibia and Mozambique, that they have ratified the Southern African Development Community 2004 Firearms Protocol," said IANSA communications officer, Louise Rimmer.

South African and international law has been used to prevent the transportation of these arms to Zimbabwe across South Africa, so other SADC authorities must stop it too."

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Louder demands for release of Zim election results

HARARE, Zimbabwe: International calls for Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe to release long-delayed results from a presidential vote mounted Wednesday, as ruling party militants continued to overrun white-owned farms and the opposition accused the government of waging a campaign of violence.

It has been 11 days since Zimbabweans voted for president but no official results have been released. The opposition claims that it won the March 29 vote outright and is asking a High Court judge to force publication of the tally. Hearings were to continue Wednesday.

Meanwhile, a state-controlled newspaper claimed that Mugabe's opponent was "begging" for the post of vice president — stepping up a push to depict his party as ready to concede.

Morgan Tsvangirai asked for the vice presidency in a government of national unity "after being told by his advisers that a possible runoff with President Mugabe for the top job was not in his best interests," The Herald newspaper reported.

The opposition has repeatedly dismissed claims that it is seeking a unity government as lies spread by a government propaganda campaign. On Tuesday, the secretary-general of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change, Tendai Biti, said it was "rubbish, rubbish, rubbish."

"We won this election," he said. The opposition maintains that it won the vote outright, with no need for a runoff. Australia's government appealed Wednesday for the quick release of results,
following on similar calls by the United Nations, Britain, the European Union and the United States.

"There is simply no excuse for them being withheld more than a week after the poll," Australian Foreign Minister Stephen Smith said in a statement. "There are mixed signals from the Zimbabwe government on the next steps but all appear to add up to a lack of respect for the will of the people," he said.

Mugabe, who has led Zimbabwe for 28 years with an increasingly dictatorial regime, has virtually conceded that he did not win and already appears to be campaigning for an expected runoff against Tsvangirai by intimidating his foes and fanning racial tensions.

Zimbabwe's opposition has accused Mugabe of an orchestrated campaign of violence and of unleashing ruling party militants to drive dozens of white farmers off their land.

Biti said there had been "massive violence" since the elections in traditional ruling party strongholds that voted for the opposition. Ruling party militants, used previously to intimidate government opponents, were being rearmed, he said.

Government officials said there had been no outbreak of violence. Reports that people are being beaten up and their homes torched have circulated in the capital in recent days but could not be confirmed because of the danger of traveling to the areas.

Zimbabwe's commercial farmers union has said ruling party supporters have forced dozens of white farmers off their land. Such seizures started in 2000 as Mugabe's response to his first defeat at the polls — a loss in a referendum designed to entrench his presidential powers.

Several farmers reached by The Associated Press said the invasions of their land continued overnight Tuesday. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were worried about recrimination.

Mugabe's party has called for a re-count and a further delay in the release of results. The opposition has urged the international community, and African leaders in particular, to try to persuade Mugabe to step down.

Jacob Zuma, the leader of South Africa's governing African National Congress party, repeated earlier entreaties that "results be announced as a matter of urgency," spokeswoman Jessie Duarte said Wednesday. She cautioned however, that he has made no specific appeal to the government.

Source: AFP

Monday, April 7, 2008

Makoni to form political party

Johannesburg - The 'third man' in Zimbabwean politics, former finance minister Simba Makoni, will soon announce he has formed a new party and give his conditional support to Morgan Tsvangirai's bid for president, his spokesman said Sunday.

Makoni, whom estimates show polling third in last weekend's presidential election behind opposition leader Tsvangirai and Mugabe, will announce the formation of his party after the long-awaited election results are released, Denford Magora said.

'There is agreement within the movement (Makoni campaign) we should formalize this thing but we are waiting for the final results,' Magora said.

Makoni threw open the presidential race in February when he announced, in a surprise move, he would run for president against his former mentor Mugabe. Although the results of the election have yet to be released eight days after voting all estimates, even from Makoni's own campaign, put him a distant third behind Tsvangirai and Mugabe.

'People around the country told us he was rather late coming to the party,' Magora admitted. In the likely event of a runoff vote between Mugabe and Tsvangirai the MDC leader would have Makoni's support on condition they reached agreement on 'concerns about the way the country is run,' Magora said.

Observers have said Makoni could try to gain a position of prime minister - a position that would have to be resurrected - in a government of national unity led by Tsvangirai as president.

Magora insisted Makoni's endorsement would be premised on policy issues. Throughout his campaign Makoni, who campaigned on a message of reform, claimed to have support within the upper echelons of Mugabe's Zanu-PF, but only one senior party member - former home affairs minister Dumiso Dabengwa - openly endorsed him.

Zanu-PF was soundly beaten by the opposition in elections to the lower house of parliament - a win Zanu-PF is now contesting. Magora warned the new party would not act as a haven for corrupt members of Zanu-PF looking to 'flee (Mugabe's party) like rats from sinking ship.'

'You can rest assured you will hear of people who making approaches (to the new party) and are turned away,' he said.

Source: Monsters and Critics

White farmers targeted as Mugabe gears up for run-off

Zimbabwe's war veterans have launched fresh invasions of the country's few remaining white owned farms as Robert Mugabe appears to be falling back on the tested tactics of violence and raising racial tensions in preparation for a run-off vote in the presidential election.

But the opposition Movement for Democratic Change warned that it might boycott a second round of elections because it would lead Zimbabweans "to the slaughter" of a wave of government sponsored violence.

It is instead taking legal action to force the state election commission to immediately release results from the presidential election, held nine days ago, which the MDC says will show that its candidate, Morgan Tsvangirai, won outright with 50.3% of the vote, making a run-off election unnecessary.

The high court is expected to rule on the petition today. Writing in today's Guardian, Tsvangirai calls on Britain, the US and South Africa to come to the defence of democracy in Zimbabwe. He said Zanu-PF was withholding the election results and planning a violent second round campaign in an attempt to maintain its "untenable grip on power".

War veterans, many of whom did not actually fight in the liberation struggle against white rule, targeted farms in Masvingo, one of the provinces where a significant number of rural voters swung from Mugabe to the MDC in the presidential and parliamentary elections.

A camera crew from state television accompanied the war veterans, who gave one white family four hours to get out of their home, suggesting the invasions were officially sanctioned.

The police eventually moved in and some of the families were able to return. But Hendrik Olivier, director of the Commercial Farmer's Union, said the country's remaining 300 white farmers, out of the 4,200 a decade ago, feared they were again to be made political targets.

"It's the war veterans in Masvingo, about six farms there, where they've been going round giving notice to farmers to get off immediately. They've been taking over equipment and livestock and telling the farmers their time is up," he said.

"The police have been cooperating but the authorities stand back for these things to happen. Why was the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation there to film the threats to the farmer? You can see this thing is orchestrated."

Chanting war veterans, some of them beating drums, also threatened farmers in Centenary, where the owners were given hours to leave. There were also signs of pressure on the opposition in Manicaland, another province with a significant rural swing away from Mugabe.

Prosper Mutseyami, a newly elected opposition MP from Manicaland, said the police were
arresting MDC election agents there. "Nine of our agents were beaten up by the police and then arrested for behaviour likely to provoke a breach of the peace," he said.

In a sign that the government intends again to make white farmers an election issue, the justice minister, Patrick Chinamasa, a Zanu-PF hardliner, claimed the MDC was bringing exiled farmers back in to Zimbabwe ready to reclaim their land.

"The MDC claim they have won and they are unleashing former white farmers on farms occupied by new farmers to reverse the land reform programme," he said."Their intention is to destabilise the
country into chaos over the land issue."

However, if the government is attempting to rekindle the land battles of the
past it may not have the same resonance with voters. "The problem is that the countryside has turned and it will be a tall order to turn sentiment around," said Wilfred Mhanda, head of the Zimbabwe Liberators' Platform, a group of war veterans who no longer support Mugabe.

"He is a desperate man and the money printing machine will be working overtime. Some will take part [in land invasions] but not out of conviction. They will be more or less like mercenaries.

There's a lot of misery in the countryside and people know who is to blame. Life is getting more desperate for them by the day."

Zim sits on razor edge

Robert Mugabe is flailing around like a wounded beast. As he lies panting on the ground, he is guarded by a core of generals, who refuse to contemplate surrender. No one can tell whether he is going to get to his feet again.

But it would be foolish to underestimate his powers of recuperation. He clearly believes he still has options, despite losing control of parliament for the first time in 28 years and almost certainly losing the presidential poll a week ago.

Yesterday he fought on two fronts simultaneously. On the political front, his Zanu-PF party played for time - demanding a recount to check "errors and miscalculations". If accepted, this will delay the presidential announcement still further.

But as opposition lawyers were petitioning the high court, demanding the election results, another front was engaged. Three white cattle ranchers were forced off their land on Saturday and a fourth was said to be holding out against 50 war veterans threatening to break down the

Mr Mugabe is returning to tried and tested techniques of intimidation. Not all white farmers left after the seizures eight years ago, and attacking the remainder who still work on parts of their former properties sends out two messages. First, Zimbabwe's problems are all down to the white man. Second, Zanu-PF can turn on the violence anytime it likes.

These tactics worked in the last elections in 2002, and Mr Mugabe must be toying with the idea of using them again. The longer a second round run-off is delayed, the more time Mr Mugabe has to "correct" the rural vote in his favour.

The farm seizures took place in provinces that switched to the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) last Sunday. Zanu-PF know exactly which villages voted against them. Without proper monitors (those from the Southern African Development Community ran off without the results being declared), villagers who turned against their traditional masters are now even more vulnerable than the white farmers to a knock on the door at night.

Mr Mugabe may have other ruses up his sleeve. If and when it announces the presidential results, the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission is expected to say neither candidate got more than 50%. Accordingly, the government will be given 21 days to mount a run-off. But Mr Mugabe might be able to use presidential decree to postpone a new vote for three months - especially if
there is violence.

The MDC will almost certainly have to contest the re-run and prove to its supporters that it will not be intimidated by violence as it was in 2002. If for no other reason than protecting defenceless villages in remote provinces from the retribution of a vengeful regime, this time the MDC must stand up and be counted.

Source: The Guardian, UK

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

CIO hounds SA obsevers out of Zim

THREE members of the Young Communist League’s Zimbabwean election observer team have returned early because of surveillance by Zimbabwe’s Central Intelligence Officers (CIO).

In a statement on Monday, the league said three members returned and one member, based in Bulawayo, had been interrogated by the CIO. “This shows the level of intimidation that is still prevalent in Zimbabwe,” the statement said.

However, the league said it was pleased the Zimbabwe government had allowed its delegation to enter and leave the country without any major interference.

The league said it had found that conditions for a free and fair election were not evident.

It also noted that people had voted in areas where they did not live and that the country’s electoral commission was run by senior leaders of Zanu-PF.

The league said there was a fear of rigging the presidential vote as electoral results displayed outside various polling stations showed that the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) had won the election in all four categories of polling.

“The remaining result for the presidential contest is reported to be in favour of Morgan Tswangirai,” it said. “There is fear of rigging the presidential leg, thus the delay of the announcement of the results.

“And there is the fear about the army and police staging a coup if the opposition takes the presidency.” The YCL therefore called for the immediate deployment of SADC and United
Nations peace keeping forces to avert any attempt towards “sinking” Zimbabwe
into violence.

“This should serve as a post-election process undertaken by all the parties involved in the elections and all the countries in the region,” the league said.

Source: Sapa

Rigging fears mount as Mugabe bottles poll results

HARARE - Zimbabwe's ruling party edged ahead of the main opposition on Tuesday with over half of parliamentary election results released and concerns grew that President Robert Mugabe was trying to rig the vote.

Riot police in armored carriers patrolled two of Harare's opposition strongholds overnight and residents were told to stay off the normally bustling streets.

Three days after the most important vote since independence, only 109 out of 210 parliamentary constituencies had been declared, showing the ruling ZANU-PF two seats ahead of the main opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).

No results have been announced for the presidential vote, in which Mugabe faces the most formidable political challenge of his 28 years in power -- from old rival Morgan Tsvangirai and ruling party defector Simba Makoni.

The opposition MDC says it won according to its own tally and has accused the veteran leader of delaying the issuing of the results in a bid to steal the election, which Zimbabweans hoped would ease daily hardships.

Zimbabweans are suffering the world's highest inflation of more than 100,000 percent, food and fuel shortages, and an HIV/AIDS epidemic that has contributed to a steep decline in life expectancy. Mugabe's foes blame him for the economic disaster.

"It is now clear that there is something fishy. The whole thing is suspicious and totally unacceptable," MDC spokesman Nelson Chamisa said.

Mugabe has denied rigging the election and his government warned that any early victory claim would be regarded as an attempted coup.


An independent Zimbabwean election monitoring group forecast Tsvangirai, leader of the largest faction of the MDC, would win the most votes in the presidential poll but not by a big enough margin to avoid a second round.

The Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN) said its projections gave him 49.4 percent. It predicted Mugabe would win 41.8 percent and Makoni would get 8.2 percent.

Tsvangirai was due to hold a news conference at 4:00 a.m. EDT, his first since voting ended.

Seven European countries and the United States called on Zimbabwe's Electoral Commission to quickly release the results. Slovenia, which holds the EU Presidency, also called for a speedy release of the results.

"This would end the current uncertainty and prevent the risk of rising tensions," the EU presidency said in a statement.

Electoral Commission chairman George Chiweshe said the slow pace was due to the complexity of holding presidential, parliamentary and local polls together for the first time.

Although the odds seemed stacked against Mugabe, in power since independence in 1980, analysts believe his iron grip on the country and solid backing from the armed forces could enable him to ignore the results and declare victory.

Marwick Khumalo, head of an observer group from the Pan-African parliament, said the elections themselves were free, fair and credible overall and on Tuesday the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) observer team also endorsed the polls.

"The ACP Election observer mission was particularly impressed by the calm and peaceful atmosphere that prevailed before, during and immediately after polling day," the state-owned Herald newspaper quoted the ACP as saying.

Official results so far showed ZANU-PF with 53 seats, MDC with 51 and a breakaway MDC faction with five. Five of the new seats the MDC won were from traditional ZANU-PF strongholds.

The MDC said unofficial tallies showed Tsvangirai had 60 percent of the presidential vote, twice the total for Mugabe. Private polling organizations also put Tsvangirai ahead.

"In our view, as we stated before, we cannot see the national trend changing. This means the people have spoken, they've spoken against the dictatorship," MDC Secretary-General Tendai Biti said.

Source: Reuters