The ZANU-PF party of Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe is doubling down on plans to call elections this year even without a new constitution in place and other key democratic reforms demanded by rival political parties and civil society groups.
Emerging from a meeting of the party’s supreme decision making body, or the politburo on Wednesday, ZANU-PF spokesman Rugare Gumbo vowed a national vote will go ahead despite spirited opposition from local and regional circles.
Gumbo reiterated the populist rhetoric often advanced by his party that the unity government had outlived its lifespan, adding its operations had since become illegal.
Sources told VOA the party was confident its election plans were falling together after picking an endorsement early this week from tough-talking Zambian President Michael Sata who reportedly said no reforms were necessary to guarantee a free and fair Zimbabwe vote.
Breaking ranks with other Southern African Development Community or SADC leaders calling for Mr. Mugabe to delay the 2012 elections and work on democratic reforms, Sata told the British Telegraph newspaper that he supports ZANU-PF’s election quest.
Mr. Sata also criticized Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, leader of the mainstream wing of the Movement for Democratic Change, describing him as a puppet of the West.
Spokesman Nhlanhla Dube of the MDC formation headed by Industry Minister Welshman Ncube said elections without reforms would be futile.
Responding to Mr. Sata’s criticism of the Zimbabwean premier, Tsvangirai MDC spokesman Douglas Mwonzora told VOA reporter Violet Gonda the Zambian leader is a "political greenstick" who thinks that the MDC has the same background as his MMD rivals in Zambia.
He said Mr. Sata was very new in leadership and in diplomatic circles that he hasn't been able yet to understand what the MDC, which defeated the long-ruling ZANU-PF in the 2008 chaotic elections, stands for.
“The people who voted in the last presidential elections in Zimbabwe are not Americans or British," Mwonzora said.
"These are indigenous Zimbabweans who are black like Sata, black like Morgan Tsvangirai and black like Robert Mugabe; therefore, the people of Zambia must respect the wishes of Zimbabweans.”
Director Ozias Tungwarara of the Africa Governance Monitoring and Advocacy Project said Mr. Sata’s statements are worrying given he is a member of the SADC bloc - guarantors of the 2008 Global Political Agreement underpinning power-sharing.
He called the statements shocking and reckless, especially coming from “a country that will definitely be affected if democracy, good governance and stability are not consolidated in Zimbabwe.”
Tungwarara urged the MDC to take up the matter with SADC.