Zimbabwe opposition stayaway fails to produce results
(dpa) - Zimbabwe's opposition was left considering other pressure tactics Tuesday after they failed
to mobilize support for a nationwide stay-at-home protest to call for the
release of results from the country's presidential elections.
The Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) called the open-ended stayaway to put pressure on the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) to release results from the poll, in which MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai claims to have ousted longtime President Robert Mugabe.
But the call went largely unheeded on the first day with most people in the capital Harare carrying on with their usual business.
Security was stepped up in cities around the country ahead of the strike. Police and soldiers took up position at checkpoints around Harare but the day passed off mostly peacefully with only isolated reports of minor flare-ups and a handful of arrests.
Police said they suspected MDC members of torching a bus in the Warren Park area of Harare and Tafadzwa Mugabe of Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR), said eight people, included a freelance journalist, had been arrested in Harare.
The whereabouts of the detainees was not immediately known. No-one was injured in the bus attack.
"Every Zimbabwean should have stayed at home until (ZEC) announced the results for the presidential poll," MDC spokesman Nqobizitha Mlilo said in a statement after it became apparent the action had been largely ineffective.
Analysts had earlier predicted as much, given that four out of five Zimbabweans are unemployed and that the rest are under pressure to feed their families amid inflation of 165,000 per cent.
Several people interviewed by Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa in Harare said they had gone to work for fear of reprisal.
"In the previous stayaways, some people would come after and threaten us if we continued listening to the MDC," said Spiwe Samunga, who works in a clothes shop.
Machel Mhofu, a 28-year-old mechanic, said he was intimidated by the heavy police presence in his neighbourhood.
"I thought they would go from door to door asking why we are at home," he said.
The ZEC's failure to announce the poll outcome 17 days after the vote has caused consternation in Zimbabwe and abroad.
On Monday Harare High Court threw out the MDC's urgent application for an order forcing the election body to end the suspense.
Despite its court setback, the MDC was back in the High Court Tuesday afternoon to protest the ZEC's plans for a partial vote recount. The judge deferred judgement in that case.
The ZEC has announced plans to recount votes cast for parliament and president in 23 out of 210 constituencies, at the instigation of Zanu-PF in 22 cases. The MDC says a recount of the presidential votes cannot be requested until the results are released.
MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai claims to have soundly defeated Mugabe but Mugabe's party claims neither Mugabe nor Tsvangirai won outright and that a runoff will be needed.
After initially opposing a runoff Tsvangirai has indicated at least twice in recent days he would partake in a second round if Zimbabwe's neighbours in the Southern African Development Community could ensure it was free and fair.
The party has expressed alarm over mounting attacks by Mugabe's party supporters against its supporters, claiming two MDC members have been killed and more than 200 injured.
On Monday, the ZLHR lawyers' group said it had reports of 130 political attacks, including two people killed.
South African Development Community (SADC) mediator in Zimbabwe, South African's President Thabo Mbeki has downplayed the tensions, saying after meeting Mugabe at the weekend the election standoff did not constitute a "crisis" - an assessment that been criticized by his own party and many Zimbabweans.
Mbeki is expected to come under pressure to discuss the progress of his mediation at a United Nations Security Council meeting on Africa which he is set to chair in New York Wednesday.