The United States for the first time declared on Thursday that President Robert Mugabe, Zimbabwe's iron fist ruler for 28 years, lost in the election last month and his opponent should now head the government.
U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Jendayi Frazer said that according to what is known, opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai won the election, according to Agence France-Presse. Her statement came after talks with officials in neighboring South Africa.
"The most credible results we have today are a clear victory for Morgan Tsvangirai in the first round and maybe a total victory," said Frazer although no official results on the presidential votes have been released yet.
Frazer, who is scheduled to talk with Tsvangirai later on Thursday, suggested that a second round of presidential voting is not necessary, saying: "We feel that the political space in Zimbabwe has closed and so that would make it very difficult for any notion of a run-off."
For weeks Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) has declared its leader the winner of the March 29 presidential elections based on its own calculations using results posted outside polling stations.
It was also vehemently opposed to a recount of vote ballots that began last weekend, accusing Mugabe's Zanu-PF of drawing out time so it could rig the results in its favor.
The United States' unequivocal stance Thursday comes at the heels of the blockage of a shipment of weapons from China to Zimbabwe. African neighbors of the landlocked country refused to allow the shipment to unload at its docks.
The shipment, which included mortar grenades and bullets, was feared to be intended for use against Zimbabwe's citizens opposed to Mugabe and his party.
All Africa Conference of Churches (AACC), in a statement Wednesday, said that it was saddened by news of the arms shipment that was intended to head for Zimbabwe.
"The comments by Justice Minister, Patrick Chimasa that Zimbabwe has the right to defend itself are very unfortunate during this volatile situation in Zimbabwe," the statement said.
"The AACC would like to commend a number of Southern African countries e.g. South Africa, Namibia, Angola and Mozambique for refusing to allow the ship to dock in their territories because of concerns that the Zimbabwean Government may use the weapons to clamp down the opposition," it added.
Archbishop Thabo Makgoba of Cape Town also said in a statement Wednesday that the Anglican church is "strenuously" opposed to the sale and transport of weapons to Zimbabwe. Makgoba commended the efforts of African church leaders who thwarted the effort to sell arms to Zimbabwe.
He also called for the Security Council of the United Nations to impose an arms embargo on the Zimbabwe government, and for South Africa and other countries to do likewise.
On Tuesday, Zimbabwe's church leaders warned that the country is in danger of "genocide" without international intervention as tension mounts in the post-election crisis.
A joint statement by three church bodies – the Evangelical Fellowship of Zimbabwe, the Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops' Conference and the Zimbabwe Council of Churches – alerted the public that "organized violence" was targeted against citizens who are accused of campaigning or voting for the "wrong" political party throughout the country, according to U.K. newspaper The Independent.
"People are being abducted, tortured, humiliated by being asked to repeat slogans of the political party they are alleged not to support, ordered to attend mass meetings where they are told they voted for the 'wrong' candidate," the statement read.
Religious leaders called for voter intimidation to stop, highlighting the "widespread famine" in the countryside and the lack of medicines to treat those injured in the post-election violence.
"If nothing is done to help the people of Zimbabwe from their predicament, we shall soon be witnessing genocide similar to that experienced in Kenya, Rwanda, Burundi and other hot spots in Africa and elsewhere," they warned. "We appeal to the Southern African Development Community [SADC], the African Union and the United Nations to work towards arresting the deteriorating political and security situation in Zimbabwe."
Jacob Zuma, South Africa's ruling party leader and the most outspoken African leader in Zimbabwe, has called on Africa to send a mission to Zimbabwe to force the issuing of the election results, according to The Independent.
In a joint statement Wednesday after their London meeting, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, one of Mugabe's harshest critic, and Zuma said, "We resolved on the crisis in Zimbabwe to redouble our efforts to secure early publication of election results," according to Reuters.
"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."
Mugabe has ruled Zimbabwe since its independence from the United Kingdom in 1980. Under Mugabe, the once so-called breadbasket of Africa has spiraled into an economic meltdown with the inflation rate over 100,000 percent and the unemployment rate over 80 percent.
An estimated 3.5 million Zimbabweans have fled to neighboring South Africa and other countries to escape the hunger and to earn money to send back to family members still living in Zimbabwe.
"We would like to assure the people of Zimbabwe that the churches in Africa are praying for them so that a quick solution to the current political crisis can be reached," AACC said on Wednesday.