Nearly four weeks after the unresolved presidential election, a state-run newspaper said Wednesday that a national unity government led by longtime leader Robert Mugabe could end Zimbabwe's deepening political and economic crisis.
In a prominently displayed editorial in the Herald, considered a government mouthpiece, columnist Dr. Obediah Mazombwe called a unity government "the most viable and safest way forward."
He said regional leaders, along with "the progressive international community," could bring together key players: Mugabe's party, the opposition, former colonial ruler Britain and the United States.
"The West, particularly the Anglo-American establishment, should stop insisting that President Mugabe and ZANU-PF cannot be part of a future prosperous Zimbabwe," Mazombwe said.
U.S. diplomat heads to region
The piece comes as the United States' top diplomat for Africa heads to southern Africa for talks with regional leaders on Zimbabwe's postelection crisis.
Assistant U.S. Secretary of State for African Affairs Jendayi Frazer headed to South Africa on Wednesday and also is to visit Angola and Zambia for talks on Zimbabwe.
Britain and South Africa's ruling party leader Jacob Zuma also made a call on Wednesday for an end to the election stalemate and stepping up pressure on Mugabe to release election results.
Zuma, who has become the most outspoken African leader on Zimbabwe, held talks in London with British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, one of Mugabe's harshest critics.
"We resolved on the crisis in Zimbabwe to redouble our efforts to secure early publication of election results," they said in a joint statement after their meeting.
"We call for an end to any violence and intimidation and stress the importance of respect for the sovereign people of Zimbabwe and the choice they have made at the ballot box."
No presidential results have been released from the March 29 election, and opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai's party insists it won outright. The Movement for Democratic Change has called the government's refusal to release the results part of a ploy to steal the vote.
The unity government editorial aired in the state media Wednesday was expected to be seen as preparing the ground for Mugabe to stay in control and even pave the way for an effective nullification of the March elections ahead of new polls.
Tsvangirai's party rejected earlier calls by independent civic groups for an alliance with Mugabe to break the monthlong political deadlock.
Breaking the political deadlock
Mazombwe said under a transitional arrangement, the resumption of critical Western financial assistance could be negotiated.
Tsvangirai and other opposition leaders, now in "virtual exile," should be guaranteed their safety and "come home and start playing a constructive national role," Mazombwe said.
A unity government would then be expected to reform the nation's constitution and organize fresh elections under regional and international supervision, he said.
On March 29, "the government did not rig the elections and, in spite of a ruthlessly battered economy, the opposition did not make a clean sweep," said Mazombwe.
For the first time in Mugabe's 28-year rule, the opposition defeated his ruling ZANU-PF party in the first count of last month's parliamentary vote. But electoral officials began recounting ballots Saturday for the 23 legislative seats, most won by opposition candidates. The ZANU-PF party needs just nine seats to reclaim a majority.
State media reported Wednesday that the first results from the recount show Mugabe's party has won an additional parliamentary seat.
The recount in Goromonzi concluded Tuesday with just a one-vote difference from the original count from the poll, giving the seat to Mugabe's ZANU-PF party, the Herald said. Officials found no errors in the vote for the upper house, or Senate.
The opposition had demanded the Goromonzi recount. No further results from the recount were released.