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Southern African Leaders To Re-Examine Their Zimbabwe Strategy

Heads of state of the Southern African Development Community in Mauritius Saturday for a conference on development and poverty will revisit the deepening post-election crisis in Zimbabwe, SADC sources said, as international pressure mounts for them to press harder on Harare to disclose the March 29 presidential election results.

The SADC leaders met in summit last Saturday in Lusaka, Zambia, coming out with a communiqué urging the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission to release the presidential election results “expeditiously,” but to little apparent effect a week later. The commission had yet to release the results three weeks after the election.

SADC sources told VOA the gathered leaders, who deliberated for 13 hours in Lusaka a week ago before issuing what many considered to be a tepid statement, are likely to face even more difficult discussions at the Mauritius gathering. Since then they have come under collective pressure from the international community to "step up" to the challenge of Zimbabwe, as U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice put it.

SADC Chairman and Zambian President Levy Mwanawasa was expected to table a request by Zimbabwean opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai to replace South African President Thabo Mbeki as mediator in the crisis, citing a loss of confidence.

Mr. Mbeki has come under fire from nearly all sides for saying last Saturday while in Harare for a meeting with President Robert Mugabe that there was no crisis.

SADC has meanwhile sent observers to Zimbabwe led by Angolan Youth Minister Marcos Barrica to watch over a recount of parliamentary ballots in 23 constituencies to begin on Saturday following a decision by a high court judge on Friday dismissing an opposition request that the court block the exercise.

Tsvangirai told reporter Blessing Zulu of VOA’s Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission and the judiciary are now conniving to deny the Zimbabwean people their right to know the outcome of the ballot.

Rival MDC formation leader Arthur Mutambara said he is throwing the weight of his grouping behind Tsvangirai, similarly calling on Mr. Mbeki hand over his brief.

Crisis in Zimbabwe Program Manager Pedzisayi Ruhanya told reporter Ntungamili Nkomo that he is skeptical SADC will take strong action even now.

Zimbabwean civil society organizations are also backing Tsvangirai’s call for Mr. Mbeki to hand off mediation to President Mwanawasa and a special SADC envoy.

Bulawayo Agenda Director Gordon Moyo told reporter Brenda Moyo that he and others are lobbying internationally in favor of the proposed change.

More reports from VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe...