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Zimbabwe recount deepens crisis

President Mugabe's electoral commission on Sunday delayed a recount of the March 29 vote, raising concerns of vote rigging.

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Will regional countries intervene?

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While the Southern African Development Community has been criticized for endorsing the "quiet diplomacy" of Mr. Mbeki, that regional body has a better chance than the African Union or the UN of engaging Mugabe in dialogue, says Mr. Maroleng. "I think the SADC has the best shot here. If they let the situation deteriorate further, that regional body is going to be judged very harshly."

Last week, Zimbabwe's high court ruled that the ZEC could begin a partial recount in 23 of the 210 constituencies, where Mugabe's supporters allege that the ZEC had miscounted votes.

Most of the constituencies are those where the ruling ZANU-PF lost to the MDC, according to preliminary vote counts posted at polls soon after March 29.

MDC spokesperson Nelson Chamisa said the opposition party has discovered that some ballot boxes had been opened and seals broken, meaning that they had been tampered with while they were in the hands of the ZEC. The MDC also says its polling agents were chased away from counting centers by soldiers and pro-Mugabe militiamen, leaving the recounting solely in the hands of the ZEC and ruling party officials.

Meanwhile, human rights activists warn that the current wave of anti-opposition violence may be just beginning. A Chinese ship carrying arms, turned back at the South African port of Durban, now appears to be sailing to Angola, for onward shipment to Zimbabwe.

The powerful South African Transport and Allied Workers Union refused to offload the ship's cargo, out of concern that the weapons may be used against opposition members and dissidents in Zimbabwe. The cargo included 3 million rounds of AK-47 ammunition, 1,500 rocket propelled grenades, and 2,500 mortar rounds

Already political violence has killed 10 opposition supporters since the elections, according to the MDC and Human Rights Watch, while more than 3,000 people have been displaced. Over 200 houses of opposition supporters have been burned as political violence takes root.

"It's a time bomb because people are unhappy and they are bottling up their anger," says Eldred Masunungure, a political science lecturer at the University of Zimbabwe. "Mugabe is underestimating the power of the people."

A journalist who could not be named for security reasons contributed from Harare.