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Southern African leaders call on Mugabe to delay vote

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

The 15-country Southern Africa Development Community on Saturday called on Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe to delay elections scheduled for July 31.

"There is a need for the government of Zimbabwe to engage the constitutional court to request more time beyond the 31st of July," SADC secretary General Tomaz Salomao said at the close of a summit of regional leaders.

The top Zimbabwean court had ruled that elections must take place before that date, despite concerns that there is not enough time to enact reforms that would ensure the polls are free and fair.

Mugabe's decision to press ahead with the election has plunged Zimbabwe into political crisis.

Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai has said he would veto any election date that comes before media, security and electoral reforms are made.

SADC leaders who represent countries like Angola, Mozambique, South Africa, Tanzania and Zambia appear to have heeded that call, asking Mugabe to seek a delay.

Mugabe's decision was seen as a stern test for SADC, which has guided a process aimed at ending years of political violence.

The much-awaited vote in Zimbabwe aims to end the shaky power-sharing government between Mugabe and Tsvangirai, formed four years as part of a plan to end political bloodshed.

"This is really a test case to prove... if SADC has emerged as a strong regional bloc for enforcing democratic principles," Harare-based political analyst Ernest Mudzengi said ahead of the meeting.

The meeting initially planned for Maputo last weekend was postponed after Mugabe said he was "unavailable" to attend.

Both Tsvangirai and Mugabe were present at this event.

In their communique SADC leaders "acknowledged the ruling of the constitutional court of Zimbabwe on the elections date" but nevertheless "agreed on the need for the government of Zimbabwe to engage the constitutional court to seek more time beyond 31 July 2013 deadline"

Salomao explained SADC was obliged to "recognise the rule of law". "Rulings are rulings," he said, but that "the government of Zimbabwe was asked to make that submission to the constitutional court."

He said SADC had not given Mugabe a specific deadline to do so.

Although SADC had been expected to consider a $132 million funding proposal, Salomao said the issue had not been debated at the summit.

The Maputo meeting also touched on the crises in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Madagascar.

Regarding Congo, where attacks by M23 rebels have destabilised the eastern part of the country, the regional bloc noted "continuing progress on the deployment of the SADC intervention brigade" and called on Rwanda and Uganda to "consider engaging all the negative forces in an effort to find a lasting political solution in the Great Lakes region."

Turning to Madagascar SADC "reiterated its earlier decision not to recognise the outcome of any election results which would include the candidates who presented their candidatures in violation of the constitution."

The group also "urged the international community to continue to exert political and diplomatic pressure on the three illegitimate presidential candidates to withdraw... for the sake of peace and stability in Magagascar."

The SADC is composed of Angola, Botswana, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Lesotho, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Seychelles, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe. Madagascar is suspended.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130615/southern-african-leaders-call-mugabe-delay-vote-2