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Daily Archives: April 12, 2008

Zimbabwe rivals prepare to lock horns at crisis summit

by Fanuel Jongwe*

President Robert Mugabe and opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai prepared yesterday to lock horns at a weekend summit of southern African leaders aimed at sorting out Zimbabwe's election mess.
Thirteen days on from the country's presidential election on March 29 there has still been no announcement on the outcome, and while Mugabe's ruling party says there must be a run-off, the opposition says its man won outright.
A legal bid by the opposition to force the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) to declare the result is still under consideration by a judge and no decision on the matter is expected till Monday at the earliest.
The ZEC said that its hands are tied over the release of the presidential election results because the matter is in court, state media said yesterday.
"The commission wishes to advise the public that the question of the results of the presidential election is now the subject of legal proceedings in the High Court," it said in a statement cited by the Herald newspaper.
"Pending determination by that court, and in line with established rules of court, norms and procedures, the commission is unable to comment on this subject," the ZEC said.
Not only is the ruling party contesting enough seats in the simultaneous parliamentary elections to overturn a slim opposition majority, it has also demanded a total recount of the presidential vote.
A clamour of appeals for outside help from Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) finally bore fruit on Wednesday when a regional bloc announced an extraordinary summit to consider the crisis.
The mouthwatering prospect of bitter enemies Tsvangirai and Mugabe facing off over the conference table in Lusaka became a real prospect on Thursday when both men's parties confirmed their intentions to attend.
"Morgan has been formally invited to the SADC meeting and he will definitely be there," Tsvangirai's number two Tendai Biti told AFP.
Mugabe's deputy information minister Bright Matonga said it was only to be expected that the 84-year-old president would attend the summit of the 14-nation Southern African Development Community (SADC).
"SADC has obviously come under a lot of international pressure over the Zimbabwe elections and needs to be briefed about what is happening here," Matonga told AFP.
South African President Thabo Mbeki, the regional heavyweight, also confirmed his attendance in Lusaka and there was speculation he could meet Tsvangirai beforehand on Friday when he visits Mozambique.
Tsvangirai was in Botswana on Thursday as part of a diplomatic offensive ahead of the summit and the MDC said he was due to go on to Mozambique and Zambia.
"As soon as we have a formal request we will meet with him at his earliest convenience, as the president would with any other Zimbabwean leader," Mbeki spokesman Mukoni Ratshitanga had said earlier Thursday.
Southern African leaders have been heavily criticised over their traditional reluctance to criticise Mugabe, who has presided over his country's economic demise during his 28-year rule, which began with independence in April 1980.
Mugabe has often bridled at any kind of outside intervention, blaming the country's economic woes on a limited package of Western sanctions imposed after he allegedly rigged his 2002 re-election.
The former British colony now has a six-figure inflation rate and unemployment is beyond 80 percent, while average life expectancy stands at 37 years.


Guns used in half of violent deaths in US

Guns were used in nearly half of the slayings studied in the most comprehensive examination of violent deaths in the United States.
More than half of those deaths were due to suicide while 30 percent were the result of homicide, according to a study released Thursday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The remainder were from undeterminable causes, such as poisoning, and accidental discharges of a firearm, according to the study of nearly 16,000 violent deaths in 16 states.
African-Americans and Native Americans were killed at rates about 50 percent higher than whites, while Asians had violent death rates about 60 percent lower than whites.
The Hispanic violent death rate was about 15 percent lower than that of whites.
Males were more than three times more likely to die violently than females, with an overall violent death rate of 31.9 per 100,000 people.
Men were most commonly murdered because of an argument or during the commission of a crime. Women were most commonly killed by a current or former intimate partner.
Men were also the suspects in 90 percent of the cases where more than one person was killed and women were the victims in 74 percent of murder-suicides.
The bulk of all the deaths occurred in someone's home while about 10 percent happened on a street or highway and about five percent in a park, playground or natural area.
Men were nearly four times more likely to kill themselves than women and 20 percent of suicides were current or former members of the military.
Only a third of suicide victims left a note.
Guns were used in nearly two thirds of homicides and sharp or blunt instruments in 18 percent. Women were seven times more likely than males to have been killed by strangulation or suffocation.
Just 1.1 percent of homicides were considered to be random acts and 4.3 percent were gang related. Drugs were involved in 17 percent of the cases.
An estimated 50,000 people die violently every year in the United States, which is about 137 a day.