The African Union’s Political Affairs Department of Human Rights, Elections, Peace and Security has undertaken to lobby Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe and his former ruling ZANU-PF party to agree to put off new elections until 2013.
The Zimbabwe Independent newspaper, citing AU commission sources, reported that the AU department will send an envoy to Harare to assess conditions and recommend the postponement of elections which Mr. Mugabe has urged be held this year.
But ZANU-PF spokesman Rugare Gumbo told VOA that Zimbabwe is a sovereign state and alone will determine when to hold elections. Gumbo said the ZANU-PF politburo met on Wednesday and reaffirmed its stance that elections should be held this year.
AU sources say South African President Jacob Zuma, mediator in Harare on behalf of the Southern African Development Community, with the AU a guarantor of power-sharing in Harare, will be a key link between the commission and Harare.
Mr. Zuma is under pressure from the Movement for Democratic Change formation of Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai to press President Mugabe not to call elections before a range of fundamental reforms have been put in place.
The MDC standing committee asked Mr. Tsvangirai to convey that view to Mr Zuma on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. But Zuma international relations advisor Lindiwe Zulu said that before this could happen Mr. Zuma was obliged to head to Addis Ababa where an African Union summit was unfolding this week.
Crisis in Zimbabwe coordinator Dewa Mavhinga, in Addis Ababa, said his group wants the African Union to be directly involved in Harare in discussions on the elections.
"The team to be assembled by the political affairs unit of the AU is expected to be dispatched before March to investigate, as requested by civil society organizations, conditions on the ground," Mavhinga said. "They will seek to establish whether Zimbabwe has a conducive environment and sufficient reforms to hold credible elections that are free and dfair and withoput violence or intimidation."
Elsewhere, the parliamentary committee in charge of revising Zimbabwe's constitution on Friday appealed to the government to provide additional funding so it can meet the new deadline of September 30 it has set to hold a referendum on the document.
Correspondent Thomas Chiripasi reported from Harare on the call for funds.