LUSAKA, June 22 (Xinhua) -- The Southern African Development Community (SADC) Chairman, Zambian President Levy Mwanawasa, here on Sunday called for the postponement of the Zimbabwean presidential run-off scheduled for June 27 until further notice.
Mwanawasa has since urged the election authorities in Zimbabwe to implement the postponement in order to allow the establishment of conditions suitable for a genuinely free and fair elections in accordance with Zimbabwean laws and the SADC principles.
He told a press conference that the situation in Zimbabwe does not stimulate the holding of free and fair elections, and he would be failing in his duties as SADC chairperson if he did not offer timely advise to Zimbabwe to postpone the elections.
Mwanawasa said that the run-off elections in Zimbabwe will not be free and fair due to among others banning and disruption of opposition campaign rallies, detention and arresting of opposition Movement for Democratic Change leader Morgan Tsvangirai and his Secretary General Tendai Biti currently facing treason charges.
"Apart from this, the opposition has been denied equal access to state media thereby denying them the opportunity to communicate their campaign messages effectively," said the SADC chairman.
He said that in view of this, it is not possible to have free and free elections in the SADC member state and that it will be embarrassing to both the SADC region and Africa to proceed with the run-off election under the current political situation.
Mwanawasa said postponing the run-off elections would avert the catastrophe threatening the region, adding that in the past five days he tried to contact leaders in the region but however managed to talk to four out of the 14 heads of state and government in the regional body about the situation in Zimbabwe.
He said South Africa President Thabo Mbeki who is the region-mandated mediator has not briefed him on the outcome of the recent talks with Mugabe and Tsvangirai .
Mwanawasa said that he is disappointed that some Zimbabweans have misinterpreted Zambia's efforts to resolve the crisis in Zimbabwe and that he was concerned about the deteriorating economic situation in the neighboring country.
"My concern and that of the Zambian people is to see Zimbabwe live in peace for itself and it neighbors. Our relations with Zimbabwe are still cordial hence our continued efforts to see that Zimbabweans enjoy peace once more. A troubled Zimbabwe is a troubled Zambia," said Mwanawasa.
Zimbabwe opposition leader Tsvangirai announced on Sunday that he had withdrawn form the country's scheduled presidential run-off.