HARARE, Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe's ruling party demanded a vote recount and a further delay in the release of presidential election results, the state Sunday Mail newspaper reported, while militants seized equipment and livestock from white-owned farms.
The opposition Movement for Democratic Change, which claims its leader Morgan Tsvangirai won the March 29 presidential ballot outright, said it would not accept a recount and pressed ahead with legal attempts to force publication of the results.
Meanwhile, farmers reported that militant supporters of the ruling party had invaded eight of the country's few remaining white-owned commercial farms.
Police later persuaded the militants to leave farms in southern Masvingo district, but even as that was happening two more farms were invaded in northern Centenary, the Commercial Farmers Union reported.
"I've got one farmer and his wife with two young children, and people banging on windows, ululating and beating drums and telling them to vacate the farm," in northern Centenary, Hendrik Olivier, the head of the Commercial Farmers' Union, told The Associated Press.
Mugabe has ruled here since his guerrilla army helped overthrow white minority rule in 1980. His popularity has been battered by an economic collapse following the often-violent seizures of white-owned commercial farms since 2000. Some 5,000 farms were seized and about 300 white farmers remain on the land.
Official results for the March 29 parliamentary elections held alongside the presidential race showed Mugabe's ZANU-PF losing its majority in the 210-seat parliament for the first time in the country's history. But eight days later, election officials still have not released the results from the presidential race.
Unofficial tallies by independent monitors show Tsvangirai won more votes than Mugabe but fewer than the 50 percent plus one vote required to avoid a runoff.
The opposition said it would not accept a recount and did not want a runoff.
The high court heard testimony Sunday afternoon from opposition party lawyers who lodged an urgent petition demanding publication of the election results. Reporters were not admitted to the court hearing. Armed police prevented opposition lawyers from entering the court on Saturday but there was no police presence Sunday.
Opposition party lawyer Andrew Makoni said the high court judge would rule Monday on the petition.
The opposition has previously said it was not hopeful of the outcome. Zimbabwe's courts are stacked with Mugabe sympathizers who have delayed hearing opposition challenges to results of 2002 and 2005 elections.
"How do you have a vote recount for a result that has not been announced? That is ridiculous," said opposition spokesman Nelson Chamisa.
He accused the ruling ZANU-PF party of vote fraud, saying that police have told opposition leaders that the ruling party has been tampering with ballots since early last week.
"These claims are totally unfounded and they are only meant to justify ZANU-PF's rigging," he said.
The ruling party cited "errors and miscalculations in the compilation of the poll result" and asked the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission to defer announcement of the presidential election results because of the "anomalies," the Sunday Mail reported.
The report came a day after Tsvangirai called on Mugabe to step down and accused the 84-year-old longtime ruler of plotting a campaign of violence to bolster his chances of winning an expected runoff.
Tsvangirai on Saturday stopped short of saying the party would boycott any runoff. But he voiced concerns that the state would mobilize the armed forces, feared youth brigades and war veterans to terrorize voters into supporting Mugabe.
"We are not going to accept the so-called runoff. It is going to be a 'run-over' of Zimbabwe. People are going to be killed," Chamisa said. "We are not so naive a leadership to lead our people to slaughter."
Mugabe has been accused of winning previous elections through violence and intimidation. Scores of opponents were killed during the 2002 and 2005 campaigns.
Deputy Information Minister Bright Matonga dismissed fears of violence as "a lot of nonsense."
The law requires a runoff within 21 days of the initial election, but diplomats in Harare and at the United Nations say Mugabe may order a 90-day delay to give security forces time to clamp down.
The government banned most foreign journalists from covering the elections and barred Western election observers.
Several foreigners, including New York Times correspondent Barry Bearak, remained in custody Sunday after being charged with "illegally observing an election without official accreditation," according to lawyer Beatrice Mtetwa. She said the offense carried a maximum penalty of a fine and/or two years in prison.
Mtetwa said she was filing an urgent application for their release from Harare's central police station. Asked how they were, Mtetwa replied: "As well as you can be in that filthy place."
An imprisoned South African satellite technician needed hospital care because he was running out of his medication for diabetes, according to his employer Globecast, which provided satellite services to some broadcasters covering the election.
Globecast spokeswoman Melanie Gibb said another technician needed medication for bronchitis.
The two men were arrested on March 28. They were acquitted of contravening the information and protection of privacy act on Friday, but re-arrested as they left court. Globecast said the men had received the necessary accreditation to work in the country.