HARARE, Zimbabwe - Amid rising concerns about violence and intimidation in rural Zimbabwe, opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai called on Western and African leaders yesterday to demand the release of presidential election results, still not announced nine days after the vote.
The state-owned Herald quoted President Robert Mugabe as warning that white farmers were poised to grab farms from black Zimbabweans, in what has emerged as the centerpiece of the ruling party campaign in a second round.
"This our soil and the soil must never go back to the whites. We don't want to hear this fight is going backward," Mugabe said Sunday, according to the Herald.
Trevor Gifford, spokesman for the Commercial Farmers' Union, said 23 farms were besieged yesterday by mobs of war veterans demanding farmers vacate within hours. There were also further reports of opposition activists in rural areas being beaten, threatened, or arrested.
Opposition leaders are angry about the failure of Southern African leaders to condemn the delay in announcing results of an election they believe they won and the renewal of intimidation by hard-line war veterans allied with the Mugabe-led government.
"Major powers here, such as South Africa, the US, and Britain, must act to remove the white-knuckle grip of Mugabe's suicidal reign and oblige him and his minions to retire," Tsvangirai wrote in the British newspaper, The Guardian. "How can global leaders espouse the values of democracy, yet when they are being challenged fail to open their mouths?"
At an address in London on Sunday, President Thabo Mbeki of South Africa, said there was "a hopeful picture" in Zimbabwe, continuing his nonconfrontational policy of "quiet diplomacy," which has been attacked by critics at home. In earlier comments, Mbeki said it was best to wait for election results.
The opposition has launched court action to compel the release of the results. And UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, has urged the Zimbabwe Election Commission to release the results "expeditiously and with transparency."
Sean McCormack, spokesman for the US State Department, told reporters that the release was "overdue".
With Mbeki overseas, Tsvangirai flew to South Africa to meet Mbeki's rival, Jacob Zuma, for talks on the Zimbabwe crisis. Zuma, president of the ruling African National Congress, is seen as Mbeki's heir apparent, unless convicted of corruption charges at a trial due in August. .
In rural areas of Zimbabwe that the opposition Movement for Democratic Change led in voting against the ruling ZANU-PF party, war veterans who support Mugabe continued to mobilize. War veteran leader Jabulani Sibanda, a key Mugabe ally, said it was too early to say how the campaign would play out.
"We are still waiting for the results. The results will give us a direction: whether it's a rerun or an outright win," Sibanda said.
Sibanda, who said he thought a rerun would be necessary, organized mass rallies in support of Mugabe last year, in the lead up to the ruling party's endorsement of him in December as its presidential candidate. He was also at the heart of a pro-Mugabe war veterans rally in Harare last week.
He said there were reports that some election commission agents took foreign currency from "foreign sponsors" in return for falsifying election results.
Wilfred Mhanda, from the Zimbabwe Liberators Platform, a group of war veterans not aligned to Mugabe, said the issue of land was "an exhausted platform. It has no takers."
He said rural voters were fed up with poverty and hunger and blamed Mugabe for their suffering. But he said Mugabe would use any means to get a working majority in Parliament and win a second presidential round.