Tensions are rising between President Robert Mugabe’s ZANU-PF party and Pretoria following remarks Monday by South African Foreign Affairs Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane that elections in Zimbabwe should be held only after a new constitution and democratic reforms are put in place to ensure a free and fair poll.
Nkoana-Mashaba told the South African Parliament that “our government expects that there would be no deviation from the provisions of the GPA,” the accord that compels parties to the Zimbabwean inclusive government to agree on a new constitution before elections.
South African President Jacob Zuma is mediating the protracted Harare crisis on behalf of the Southern African Development Community, or SADC.
The statement by Zuma's foreign minister touched off a storm in Harare as more and more ZANU-PF hardliners expressed their condemnation, telling her that she should not interfere in Zimbabwe's political affairs.
ZANU-PF politburo member, Jonathan Moyo, accused Nkoana-Mashaba of “gross interference.” The hardliners argue only President Mugabe has the prerogative to call elections in Zimbabwe.
ZANU-PF spokesman Rugare Gumbo said Pretoria has no right to dictate an election timeline to Harare.
Moyo was quoted in the media as saying Mr. Zuma is the only person mandated to mediate in Zimbabwe, adding that he was doing so on an individual capacity and not as head of the South African government.
“The South African government is not a GPA facilitator, this woman as an official of the South African government has no business whatsoever commenting on this thing," Moyo said. "Zimbabwe has never been a province of South Africa; is not a province of South Africa and will never be a province of South Africa.”
In nationwide broadcasts marking his 88th birthday, Mr Mugabe vowed to call elections this year even in the absence of a new constitution and democratic reforms demanded by the Movement for democratic change and civil society groups.
But Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai says elections must be held next year after reforms to avoid a repeat of the 2008 election violence.
Government sources said Mr. Zuma, currently on a regional tour, will be in Harare next week to discuss with the country’s leaders issues related to the GPA, the road map to elections and related issues.
Mr. Zuma’s international relations adviser Lindiwe Zulu told VOA reporter Blessing Zulu that the South African's president's visit was on the cards, but no firm dates have been confirmed yet.
Political analyst Pedzisayi Ruhanya commented that ZANU-PF was reluctant to introduce reforms fearing electoral defeat.