Zimbabwe: UN blocks British, US attempts to halt run-off
June 25, 2008
THE United Nations yesterday blocked attempts by Britain, the United States and France to declare MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai as the President of Zimbabwe on the basis of the results of the March 29 harmonised elections. This came as South Africa's ruling ANC party rejected foreign intervention in Zimbabwe, especially from erstwhile colonisers.
Britain, the current president of the Security Council, tried to use Belgium to halt Friday's presidential run-off election and illegally install Tsvangirai as president, but South Africa's Ambassador to the UN, Mr Dumisani Khumalo, blocked these attempts. Associated Press reported that the US and France also tried to include in the Security Council statement language asserting that Tsvangirai should be considered the legitimate president of Zimbabwe.
Zimbabwe's permanent representative to the UN Ambassador Boniface Chidyausiku said submissions by South Africa and Zimbabwe convinced the 15-member Security Council that it would be legally improper to halt the run-off and install Tsvangirai.
The original draft compiled by the British had claimed that the elections would not be free and fair, but the Security Council eventually issued a watered down non-binding statement condemning political violence.
"We would like to pay tribute to Ambassador Khumalo for the sterling work he did. It is a big victory for us. "Britain, through Belgium, which is not a member of the Security Council, tried to get the UN to impose Tsvangirai as president in contravention of the country's Constitution and electoral laws. "But South Africa made it clear that this would not be acceptable and we also made submissions indicating that it would be improper to subvert the law like that," Ambassador Chidyausiku said.
He said last week, Belgium -- apparently acting on orders from Britain -- had asked for a Security Council brief on what was going on in Zimbabwe. The strategy was to use this as an excuse to criticise the electoral process, negate the need for a run-off and then recognise Tsvangirai as president on the basis of the March 29 poll results.
"The draft that we saw on Friday was mild. It was something that we could have lived with. But over the weekend Tsvangirai said he didn't want to participate in the run-off anymore and this gave Britain, through Belgium, ammunition to attack Zimbabwe," Ambassador Chidyausiku said.
On Monday morning, he said the draft was suddenly harder and bent on preventing a run-off as if they were aware Tsvangirai would lose the election. "They were happy to go with the results of the March 29 poll when the law is clear that there should be a run-off. "We, too, respect the results of the harmonised elections and that is why we agree that there should be a run-off. For anyone to prevent a run-off is to prevent the free expression of the will of the people as provided for by the law," he said.
Ambassador Chidyausiku said Britain and its allies tried to argue that a cancellation of the run-off would be necessitated by the prevalence of State-contrived violence. However, Zimbabwe's mission to the UN presented the Security Council with statistics indicating that the opposition was mostly behind the political violence in the country. "The figures we have show that 400 MDC-T supporters have been arrested for political violence compared to 160 Zanu-PF supporters. "We also demonstrated that there have been numerous cases of MDC-T supporters going around dressed in Zanu-PF regalia and beating up people. "This is an outdated strategy used by the Selous Scouts during the liberation struggle and with the predominance of Selous Scouts in the MDC-T it is obvious what is going on. "We managed to get them to recognise these realities and they failed in their bid to install Tsvangirai." He said the people of Zimbabwe would determine the future of Zimbabwe.
Ambassador Chidyausiku also said that it was imperative for Sadc to remain united under the Lusaka Summit resolution to respect South African President Thabo Mbeki's mediation role. "Sadc gave President Mbeki the mandate to mediate in Zimbabwe and that should be respected. That is a mandate that came out of a summit and no pronunciations by any individual outside of a summit should nullify this reality. "Lusaka stands," he said.
The ANC, South Africa's ruling party, rejected any outside diplomatic intervention in the Zimbabwean matter yesterday arguing that "any attempts by outside players to impose regime change will merely deepen" the problems in Zimbabwe. Although it said it was concerned with the situation in Zimbabwe, the ANC evoked Zimbabwe's colonial history and insisted that outsiders had no role to play in ending its current problems.
"It has always been and continues to be the view of our movement that the challenges facing Zimbabwe can only be solved by the Zimbabweans themselves," the statement said. "Nothing that has happened in the recent months has persuaded us to revise that view."
In what seemed a clear rebuke to the efforts of Western nations to take an aggressive stance against the Zimbabwean Government, the ANC included a lengthy criticism of the "arbitrary, capricious power" exerted by Africa's former colonial masters and cited the subsequent struggle by African nations to grant new-found freedoms and rights. "No colonial power in Africa, least of all Britain in its colony of 'Rhodesia' ever demonstrated any respect for these principles," the ANC said, referring to Zimbabwe before its independence.
‘Tsvangirai can’t pull out’
MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai cannot pull out of Friday’s presidential election run-off, legal experts said yesterday. Opposition-aligned constitutional lawyer Lovemore Madhuku said Tsvangirai’s decision had no legal force.Madhuku, chairman of the anti-Government National Constitutional Assembly, told SW Radio Africa: "The strict legal position is that candidature for the run-off or the second election is not a voluntary exercise, you give your consent when you contest the first election."
Tsvangirai yesterday formally wrote to the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission to withdraw from the run-off, taking a cue from the British government-sponsored statement expressing concern to the United Nations over violence in the run-up to the poll.ZEC chairperson Justice George Chiweshe acknowledged receipt of the letter from Tsvangirai, but said he was not at liberty to disclose the contents, until the commission meets today. "We have received a letter from MDC-T, but I cannot disclose the contents because the commission has to meet first. We will be meeting tomorrow (today) and then issue a statement," he said.
MDC-T spokesperson Nelson Chamisa initially confirmed that his party had delivered the letter to ZEC before becoming evasive.
"The letter has since gone," he said.
Madhuku said while a 21-day withdrawal period was provided for in the first round of voting, the law was silent on withdrawing from a run-off which is an "irreversible process". Participating in the run-off, he said, therefore becomes automatic once one is nominated to take part in the first round election.
The Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs, Cde Patrick Chinamasa, said according to the law, it was not possible for Tsvangirai to pull out of the run-off."My understanding of the law is he could have withdrawn his candidature 21 days before the first round of voting on March 29. After that, there is no choice and a candidate must see through the electoral process that will have been set in motion.
"That is why after March 29 we did not have any fresh nominations because participation at that stage is no longer voluntary and the law coerces you to see through the process. And there are very good reasons for our law being like that.
"After all, Tsvangirai’s purported withdrawal is coming after the postal vote has been cast, ballot papers have been printed, equipment has been deployed across the country and polling officers have been recruited, some have been deployed and some are in the process of being deployed. To call off an election at such a stage is unthinkable.
"And I would like to emphasise that the conditions obtaining on the ground are conducive for the holding of free and fair elections."
Cde Chinamasa said MDC-T was still carrying out campaigns despite claiming that it had pulled out of the race.
Furthermore, Tsvangirai was yesterday spotted moving freely in and out of the Dutch Embassy in Harare where he fled to on Monday alleging security concerns, Cde Chinamasa said.
He said they had been reliably informed that Tsvangirai was carrying out his campaign work and reiterated that the election would go ahead as planned.
MDC-T youths were yesterday seen distributing flyers in the capital urging the electorate to vote for Tsvangirai.
Cde Chinamasa said Tsvangirai’s decision to relocate to the Dutch Embassy was a "stage-managed affair meant to coincide with a United Nations Security Council meeting".
"Seeking refuge at the Dutch Embassy was a stage-managed affair instigated by American and Dutch officials who visited him over the weekend at his house. They urged him to go to the Dutch Embassy as this would help in stampeding the UN Security Council into a resolution on the run-off.