HARARE, Zimbabwe - A runoff will be necessary to decide Zimbabwe's presidential election, a Cabinet minister said yesterday, citing the government's own election results.
Deputy Information Minister Bright Matonga's comments came a day after Zimbabwe's opposition rejected a runoff. That's despite a media report that the official tally - still not released more than a month after the vote - showed its candidate beat Mugabe, but not by enough to avoid a second round.
Matonga said Mugabe's party will take part in a runoff.
"As far as I'm concerned, there is going to be a runoff," Matonga told The Associated Press. "We have got our own results."
On Wednesday, CNN quoted an unidentified senior official with Zimbabwe's ruling ZANU-PF party as saying results from the March 29 election gave opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai 47 percent of the votes while Mugabe trailed with 43 percent.
Matonga would not say whether the CNN report was correct, or give details about the figures he said the government has. But he said no one won the 50 percent plus one vote needed to avoid a runoff.
Independent observers have been saying that Tsvangirai won the most votes, but not enough to avoid a runoff. Tsvangirai insists he won outright.
Individual polling stations have posted results, allowing parties and others to compile their own tallies while the nation awaits official results from the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission.
Tsvangirai and rights groups have accused Mugabe, 84, of withholding the results to buy time to steal a runoff through intimidation or fraud.
Electoral commission officials said late Wednesday that no official results had been released and that party officials would not see them until the verification process, which began yesterday afternoon.
Mugabe and Tsvangirai sent representatives, and independent candidate Simba Makoni himself attended. Journalists were allowed inside for only a few minutes as the process began, and were given no indication when it would be completed.
The opposition says a campaign of terror and violence since the first round of voting has left the movement in disarray, with its main leaders staying out of the country for fear of arrest.
Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change said in a statement yesterday that 20 of its activists had been killed in the last month in postelection violence. Such figures have been difficult to verify. Independent rights groups in Zimbabwe have given more conservative tolls, but they also have said that not all deaths have been reported.
In Johannesburgon Wednesday, Tsvangirai spokesman George Sibotshiwe reiterated that the opposition would not take part in a runoff because it believed that only fraudulent results would deny Tsvangirai an outright victory.
"If Robert Mugabe cannot accept the real results now, what's the guarantee he'll accept the real results after a runoff?" Sibotshiwe said.
Independent rights groups also say postelection violence makes it unlikely a runoff could be free and fair.