Facilitators working for South African President Jacob Zuma, mediator for the region in Zimbabwe, responded Friday to a demand issued by the ZANU-PF politburo demanding elections this year, saying the ballot will be called according to the road map drawn up by Harare government negotiators and agreed to by all power-sharing parties.
Lindiwe Zulu, a Zuma foreign affairs aide and spokeswoman for the facilitation team that has been shuttling back and forth to Harare, commented after the ZANU-PF politburo rejected the timeline proposed by the Harare government negotiators.
ZANU-PF spokesman Rugare Gumbo dismissed the statement from Pretoria.
“We are Zimbabweans, we decide what we want to do. Negotiations are not cast in stone. We can accept or reject what negotiators have decided, so I don’t want to listen to that kind of nonsense,” Gumbo told VOA Studio 7 reporter Violet Gonda.
After months of haggling over when the next elections should be held, negotiators from President Robert Mugabe's ZANU-PF, the Movement for Democratic Change formation of Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and the smaller MDC wing led by Industry Minister Welshman Ncube unanimously agreed elections should be held next year.
The timeline was stretched out to allow for a constitution to be drafted, a referendum on it to be held, and for myriad electoral and other reforms to be implemented.
But the timeline was almost immediately rejected by the ZANU-PF politburo, the party's supreme decision making body, which insisted elections must be held this year. Mr. Mugabe and ZANU-PF hardliners have been doing the same for many months.
Commented Tsvangirai MDC Treasurer General Roy Bennett: “It might be their machinations and hopes but it is not going to happen.”
The MDC official said reforms should have been in place by mid-February of this year but said ZANU-PF had slowed the process and in particular interfered with the public outreach or comment phase which took far longer and cost more than it should have.
“If we need to do these things correctly and timeously we have to follow a set of reforms in order that we can go into a genuine free and fair election as guaranteed by [the Southern African Development Community, guarantor of power-sharing].
Brian Kagoro, chairman of the Development Foundation of Zimbabwe, said it is more realistic to hold elections next year, but added that it is not enough simply to call for electoral and media reforms when there are so many more issues the co-governing parties must address, including economic recovery and jobs.
The commentator said ordinary citizens are looking for more secure livelihoods and greater dignity in their daily existence.
He urged political parties to promulgate their manifestos between now and the next elections so Zimbabweans will be able to see who is making a commitment to deliver on jobs, social protection, elimination of corruption and other basics.
Kagoro said there needs to be a change in political culture that goes beyond fighting over procedural aspects of the rule of law, constitutional reform and governance.
"These should be the election issues and not so much whether or not we have a new electoral reform commission," Kagoro said.
Zimbabweans should take a cue from the liberation struggle, where the most pressing issue at the late-1970s Lancaster House negotiations leading to the independence of Zimbabwe in 1980 was the cessation of hostilities, Kagoro continued.
“It will be the day after elections that the new government will be faced with these challenges immediately, and it is not enough for a new government to wait to start after the elections. People need to have dialogued about them and reached a consensus on what direction to take beforehand,” Kagoro concluded.