Zimbabwe: Churches appeal for peace as anxiety mounts

 On the fourth day of waiting for results of the much-watched Zimbabwean elections, church leaders from Southern Africa appealed for peace, amidst rowing tension over the delay. "We, the church leaders from Southern African Development Community (SADC) wish to appeal to the electorate, different political party supporters and political party leaders, and various security organs of Zimbabwe to exercise restraint as election results are being announced, the leaders said in a statement sent to CISA today. "We therefore appeal to political leaders to pursue the path of peace and to restrain their supporters from violence during his period and after the elections. We also appeal to ZEC [Zimbabwe Electoral Commission] to speed up the process of election announcement. The SADC churches, under the Regional Faith-Based Initiative, includes the Fellowship of Christian Councils in Southern Africa (FOCCISA), the Association of Evangelicals in Africa (AEA) and the Catholic Interregional Meeting of Bishops of Southern Africa (IMBISA). There are fears that delay of the results is occasioned by government attempts to secure a win for the incumbent.The electoral commission last night released more election results, with indications that the ruling ZANU-PF and the Morgan Tsivangirai-led faction of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) were headed for a tie in the House of Assembly poll, the state-owned Herald newspaper reported. The pattern of results in the presidential election, the paper said, showed that none of the candidates would garner more than 50 percent of the vote, forcing a re-run. Indications were that the two parties were likely to win between 96 and 99 seats each in the 210-seat Assembly. Zimbabwe's opposition said they were on the verge of taking power on Tuesday after dismissing speculation that they would negotiate a managed exit for veteran President Robert Mugabe, Reuters reported. Both opposition leader Tsvangirai and Mugabe's government strongly denied foreign media speculation that a deal had been reached to arrange the departure of Mugabe after 28 years of uninterrupted power. Mugabe's spokesman George Charamba described reports of an exit deal as "nonsense." Mugabe who has ruled Zimbabwe since independence from Britain in 1980 faced an unprecedented challenge in Saturday's elections because of a two-pronged opposition attack and the economic collapse of his once prosperous country, which has reduced much of the population to misery. Source: CISA

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