Zimbabwe exiles want Mugabe barred from summit

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – A Zimbabwean exile group has brought an urgent application to a regional tribunal seeking to have President Robert Mugabe barred from a regional summit, saying he should not be recognised as head of state.

The Southern African Development Community’s (SADC) summit in Johannesburg at the weekend is expected to address Zimbabwe’s post-election political crisis.

The Zimbabwe Exiles Forum (ZEF), a Southern African organisation, said on Friday it has asked the SADC tribunal to prevent Mugabe and his government from taking part in the summit.

Power-sharing negotiations began last month after Mugabe’s unopposed re-election in June that was condemned around the world and boycotted by Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) leader Morgan Tsvangirai because of attacks on his supporters.

"The ZEF is arguing that since Mugabe was not constitutionally elected, he is not a lawful head of state and should not be allowed to take his seat at the summit," said a statement issued by the Southern Africa Litigation Centre, a human rights group which is helping the organisation in the case.

"As such, it says, the invitation to Mugabe by SADC was unlawful. It will also argue that the tribunal should declare that, in terms of SADC’s own underlying principles, set out in the SADC Treaty, it may not recognise governments that come to power by unconstitutional means."

The relatively new tribunal has jurisdiction over the 14 SADC states. In October it received its first complaint and responded by ordering Zimbabwe to halt its seizures of a farmer’s land, in a blow to Mugabe.

SADC, a regional grouping of 14 African nations that includes Zimbabwe, is trying to mediate an end to a political and economic crisis in the southern African nation.