, MAPUTO, Jun 16 – 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.