JOHANNESBURG, South Africa (AP) – Zimbabwe's opposition movement healed long-standing divisions this week and declared that it has won control of Parliament for the first time in history – and that President Robert Mugabe must concede defeat.
They also appealed to the U.N. Security Council to send a special envoy to Zimbabwe and to warn Mugabe that the mounting violence against opposition supporters was tantamount to “crimes against humanity.”
Putting months of bickering behind them, Movement for Democratic Change leaders Morgan Tsvangirai and Arthur Mutambara stood united to order Mugabe to step aside.
“Old man, go and have an honorable exit,” Tsvangirai said in a message to the 84-year-old autocrat who has ruled since independence from Britain in 1980.
In a parliamentary democracy, the majority rule,” Tsvangirai said alongside Mutambara at a news conference at a
Johannesburg airport. “He should concede that … he cannot be president.”
More than a month after the elections, results from the presidential race have not been announced. Tsvangirai maintains that he won the presidency outright – although independent observers say he fell just short of the votes needed to avoid a runoff.
Tsvangirai reiterated Monday, April 28 that he would not take part in a runoff.
“The question about a runoff doesn't arise. It doesn't arise because of the simple fact that the people have spoken, the people have decided,” he told journalists before boarding a plane for Tanzania, whose president takes over the African Union's rotating presidency.
The outgoing AU chairman, Alpha Konare, urged the release of the election results.
“The election results must be released to stop the violence,” said Konare, a former president of Mali. “We hope that the president of Zimbabwe accepts these results,” he said in a statement that underlined that patience is running out with Mugabe even in Africa.
The opposition maintains that hundreds of its supporters have been arrested, attacked or driven from their homes, especially in rural areas that used to be Mugabe strongholds but voted against him in the elections. It says that 14 of its supporters have died, but there is no independent confirmation of this.
The Zimbabwe Association of Doctors for Human Rights says more than 63 people were hospitalized in three days last week alone, and provided shocking photos of injuries.
Tsvangirai said his supporters were powerless against the onslaught, which is allegedly perpetrated by ruling party thugs and youth militias, with support from the chief of the armed forces.
“We will not adopt unorthodox means of responding to violence with violence. We don't even have the means,” he said.
There are mounting fears that Mugabe, backed by his powerful security chiefs, will use violence to cling to power.
But he risks a hostile majority in Parliament.
A recent study by the University of Zimbabwe's law department predicted that if Mugabe did hold onto the presidency, he would be in an untenable position as Parliament would likely block financial legislation to fund day-to-day government operations.
This could paralyze government and lead to constitutional deadlock.
In a likely sign of a power struggle behind the scenes, the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission failed to publish the results of the recount of 23 disputed parliamentary seats from the elections, as had been scheduled.
Officials announced Saturday, April 26 that recounts of 18 of 23 disputed parliamentary seats left initial results unchanged – enough to confirm the opposition's seizure of control of parliament from Mugabe's ZANU-PF party for the first time.
On April 28, state radio in Zimbabwe quoted electoral commission officials as saying it would be at least another three days before the parliamentary results were final, but saying nothing about the presidential results.
The two opposition leaders said they have put past rivalry between them aside. They said they wanted to work with former
Finance Minister Simba Makoni, the third presidential candidate, and would also approach sympathetic ZANU-PF lawmakers to see if they would cross party lines.
“We are here to … say there will be no divisions among ourselves,” Mutambara said. “We are all going to work together in case Robert Mugabe and ZANU-PF try to sabotage the will of the people.”
“We are in control of parliament. We are also controlling the senate. This is the state of affairs in our country,” he said.
Associated Press correspondent Angus Shaw in Harare, Zimbabwe, contributed to this report.