12-05-2016  2:43 am      •     

HARARE, Zimbabwe (AP) -- President Robert Mugabe's ruling party demanded a vote recount and a further delay in the release of presidential election results, the state Sunday Mail newspaper reported, prompting outrage from the opposition party.
Meanwhile, militant supporters of the ruling party invaded eight of the few remaining white-owned commercial farms, the farmers reported, another sign Mugabe plans to use violence to stay in power.
At least four cattle ranchers were driven off their land, and equipment and livestock were seized, the farmers said.
"I've got one farmer and his wife with two young children, and people banging on windows, ululating and beating drums and telling them to vacate the farm," in northern Centenary, Hendrik Olivier, the head of the Commercial Farmers' Union told The Associated Press.
He said police had persuaded militants to leave six farms in southeast Zimbabwe, but others invaded two farms in Centenary.
The opposition Movement for Democratic Change, which claims its leader Morgan Tsvangirai won the March 29 presidential ballot outright, said it would not accept a recount, did not want a runoff and pressed ahead with legal attempts to force publication of the results.
"How do you have a vote recount for a result that has not been announced? That is ridiculous," said opposition spokesman Nelson Chamisa.
He accused the ruling ZANU-PF party of vote fraud, saying that police have told opposition leaders that the ruling party has been tampering with ballots since early last week.
"These claims are totally unfounded and they are only meant to justify ZANU-PF's rigging," he said.
The ruling party cited "errors and miscalculations in the compilation of the poll result" and asked the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission to defer announcement of the presidential election results because of the "anomalies," the Sunday Mail reported.
The report came a day after Tsvangirai called on Mugabe to step down and accused the 84-year-old longtime ruler of plotting a campaign of violence to bolster his chances of winning an expected runoff.
Eight days after the election, the commission has yet to announce the results. Unofficial tallies by independent monitors show Tsvangirai won more votes than Mugabe -- but fewer than the 50 percent plus one vote required to avoid a runoff.
The high court heard testimony Sunday afternoon from opposition party lawyers who lodged an urgent petition demanding publication of the election results. Reporters were not admitted to the court hearing. Armed police prevented opposition lawyers from entering the court on Saturday but there was no police presence Sunday.
Opposition party lawyer Andrew Makoni said the high court judge would rule Monday on the petition.
The Movement for Democratic Change maintained its resistance to a runoff.
"We are not going to accept the so-called runoff. It is going to be a 'run-over' of Zimbabwe. People are going to be killed," Chamisa said. "We are not so naive a leadership to lead our people to slaughter."
Tsvangirai on Saturday stopped short of saying the party would boycott any runoff. But he voiced concerns that the state would mobilize the armed forces, feared youth brigades and war veterans to terrorize voters into supporting Mugabe.
Mugabe has been accused of winning previous elections through violence and intimidation. Scores of opponents were killed during the 2002 and 2005 campaigns.
Deputy Information Minister Bright Matonga dismissed fears of violence as "a lot of nonsense."
The law requires a runoff within 21 days of the initial election, but diplomats in Harare and at the United Nations say Mugabe may order a 90-day delay to give security forces time to clamp down.
Mugabe has ruled here since his guerrilla army helped overthrow white minority rule in 1980. His popularity has been battered by an economic collapse following the often-violent seizures of white-owned commercial farms since 2000.
A third of the population has fled the country and 80 percent are jobless. Inflation is raging at more than 100,000 percent. Some 5,000 farms were seized and about 300 white farmers remain on the land.
Official results for parliamentary elections held alongside the presidential race showed Mugabe's ZANU-PF losing its majority in the 210-seat parliament for the first time in the country's history. Final results for the 60 elected seats in the senate gave the ruling party and the opposition 30 seats each.
The government banned most foreign journalists from covering the elections and barred Western election observers.
Several foreigners, including New York Times correspondent Barry Bearak, remained in custody Sunday after being charged with "illegally observing an election without official accreditation," according to lawyer Beatrice Mtetwa. She said the offense carried a maximum penalty of a fine and/or two years in prison.
Mtetwa said she was filing an urgent application for their release from Harare's central police station. Asked how they were, Mtetwa replied: "As well as you can be in that filthy place."
An imprisoned South African satellite technician needed hospital care because he was running out of his medication for diabetes, according to his employer Globecast, which provided satellite services to some broadcasters covering the election.
Globecast spokeswoman Melanie Gibb said another technician needed medication for bronchitis.
The two men were arrested on March 28. They were acquitted of contravening the information and protection of privacy act on Friday, but re-arrested as they left court. Globecast said the men had received the necessary accreditation to work in the country.



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