ANC warns against election intervention

Despite an increasingly thunderous chorus of complaints that Zimbabwe's presidential runoff will be neither free nor fair, the African National Congress, South Africa's ruling party, rejected any outside diplomatic intervention in the matter, arguing Tuesday that “any attempts by outside players to impose regime change will merely deepen the crisis.”

The ANC warned against international intervention a day after the U.N. Security Council took its first action on the electoral crisis in Zimbabwe, issuing a unanimous statement condemning the campaign of violence in the country and calling on the government there to free political prisoners and allow the opposition to rally its supporters.

But South Africa, the region's powerhouse, is widely considered to play the pivotal role in bringing about change in neighboring Zimbabwe. And while the ANC came out with an unusually strong condemnation of the Zimbabwean government Tuesday, saying it was “riding roughshod over the hard-won democratic rights” of its people, the party also evoked Zimbabwe's colonial history and insisted that outsiders had no role to play in ending its current anguish.

In what seemed a clear rebuke to the efforts of Western nations to take an aggressive stance against the Zimbabwean government, the ANC included a lengthy criticism of the “arbitrary, capricious power” exerted by Africa's former colonial masters and cited the subsequent struggle by African nations to grant newfound freedoms and rights.

Still, the statement's blatant castigation of Zimbabwe's government reflected the increasing frustration with President Robert Mugabe. Amid the international outcry over his government's handling of the crisis, Mugabe was reported Tuesday as hinting that he might be open to talks with the opposition, but only after he won the election.

His longtime rival, Morgan Tsvangirai, withdrew from a runoff scheduled for Friday because of the widespread violence and intimidation facing his party and its supporters.

Mugabe was quoted Tuesday as insisting that the ballot would proceed as he has planned. But in a speech in western Zimbabwe, Reuters reported, Mugabe referred to comments by Tsvangirai offering talks if the violence ended.

“He now says he wants to negotiate,” Mugabe was quoted as saying. “We say we won't refuse to negotiate but for now there is only one thing for us to accomplish.”

His remarks were the most explicit affirmation that he intends to go through with an election condemned as flawed and illegitimate from a growing roster of organizations, politicians and governments including the U.N. and South Africa.