Tsvangirai, who has declared himself and his Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party the winners of the March 29 elections, said on Thursday that he had asked Levy Mwanawasa, the Zambian president and chairman of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), to launch a new mediation effort.


South African reversal


After staying largely silent since the March 29 presidential election, South Africa on Thursday called for the results to be quickly released and said for the first time that it was concerned by the delay.

Themba Maseko, a government spokesman, said "the situation is dire".


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"When elections are held and results are not released two weeks after, it is obviously of great concern," he said.


"The Zimbabweans need to be informed about those reasons for holding the results. But the most important thing is that the results need to be verified and released as soon as possible," Maseko said.


Mbeki had previously played down the gravity of the post-election deadlock, saying the electoral process must take its course and there was no crisis.

The apparent U-turn on Thursday coincided with the US criticising Africa for a lack of action on the Zimbabwe polls.


"More leaders in the region need to speak out and the United Nations and the AU [African Union] must play an active role in resolving the situation in Zimbabwe," George Bush, the US president, told reporters on Thursday.


The SADC called for the outcome to be announced quickly last weekend, but African reaction has been muted, largely taking its cue from Mbeki, who had, until Thursday, insisted on quiet diplomacy with Mugabe.


Arms not stopped


But the South African government also announced that it will not stop a shipment of Chinese-made weapons from reaching Zimbabwe despite fears that the weapons may be used to clamp down on the opposition.

South African officials said they will not intervene because there is no arms embargo against Zimbabwe.


Tsvangirai has called for a UN tribunal on what
he calls human rights violations [AFP]
Tsvangirai has charged that Mugabe has "unleashed an orgy of violence against the people" after the election.

The MDC said on Thursday hundreds of supporters had been seriously injured in attacks by Mugabe's ruling Zanu-PF since the election.


The opposition says Mugabe is using militias to intimidate opposition supporters and help him rig victory in an expected run-off election against Tsvangirai.


Tsvangirai suggested there may need to be a special United Nations tribunal to judge crimes committed in Zimbabwe.


"I think the current wave of violence against the people must stop and the only way to stop [it] is that those who are committing those crimes must know that they must be answerable one day," he said.


Mugabe, in power since independence from Britain in 1980, is preparing to contest a second ballot run-off against Tsvangirai, even though the results of the first round of voting have not been issued.


The 84-year-old Mugabe is scheduled to address a crowd in a Harare township on Friday to commemorate the 28th anniversary of Zimbabwe's independence, his first major speech since the elections.