Both formations of Movement for Democratic Change have rejected this week's call from Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe's ZANU-PF demanding elections be held in 2011 saying many issues must be resolved to ensure the next ballot is free and fair.
ZANU-PF spokesman Rugare Gumbo told reporters on Wednesday following a meeting of the party's politburo that elections would be held “without fail” this year just as soon as the new constitution still in the drafting process has been adopted.
Weighing in Thursday evening in remarks to a seminar at the SapesTrust in Harare, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai said elections cannot be held this year.
Mr. Tsvangirai noted that until the new constitution is in place, it will not even be clear whether Zimbabwe will have a presidential system or a parliamentary system with a president for foreign policy and defense and a prime minister to run the government.
He said that even once the constitution is in place there will remain a lot of work to be done beginning with a major overhaul of the badly corrupted voters roll. But the prime minister said elections must be held by 2013 when the current parliament expires.
ZANU_PF spokesman Gumbo warned that if Mr. Tsvangirai's dominant MDC formation declined to take part in 2011 elections, ZANU-PF would inform the Southern African Development Community and continue with the smaller MDC of Welshman Ncube.
But the spokesman for that MDC formation, Nhlanhla Dube, told reporter VOA Studio 7 reporter Sithandekile Mhlanga that his party also stands in opposition to the ZANU-PF effort to push ahead with elections in 2011.
Tsvangirai MDC spokesman Douglas Mwonzora said in an interview that ZANU-PF has no mandate to call elections if the other parties in the unity government object.
The ZANU-PF politburo’s resolution on elections came as a blow to the consensus which had seemed to be emerging on this question among unity negotiators and SADC.
The politburo decision is not binding on other parties in the government but but suggests there remains some risk Mr. Mugabe may call snap elections as he did in 2008.
For perspective, VOA Studio 7 reporter Sandra Nyaira turned to political analysts Charles Mangongera and Livingstone Dzikira.
Mangongera says the ZANU-PF decision is intended to protect the interests of the few at the expense of the nation, adding that ZANU-PF should be aware that change is afoot and that it can no longer call all the shots.
Dzikira, while advocating an end to political violence and electoral reforms, said there can never be free and fair elections so long as Western sanctions against President Mugabe and about 200 other senior ZANU-PF officials remain in place.
Elsewhere, President Mugabe and Prime Minister Tsvangirai declined to take action on recommendations by power-sharing negotiators and the Southern African Development Community saying Welshman Ncube as head of the smaller MDC formation should replace Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara as unity government principal.
Sources said the president and prime minister met Monday and agreed that Mutambara should remain their colleague in the presidium, dispatching letters to that effect to South African President Jacob Zuma, SADC's mediator in Harare. The two leaders said they would not recognize Ncube until a court dispute over the position has been settled.
SADC's troika on politics, defense and security in a recent meeting last month recognized Ncube as head of the Bulawayo-based MDC wing, and admitted him to the session in Livingstone, Zambia. The SADC mini-summit said Mutambara should remain in his position as deputy prime minister but not as MDC chief or unity principal.
Mutambara spokesman Maxwell Zimuto told reporter Blessing Zulu that the principals had written to Mr. Zuma, his facilitators and SADC members to state their position.
Spokesman Nhlanhla Dube of the Ncube MDC said the decision came as no surprise. He repeated a familiar gibe that the party has “donated” Mutambara to ZANU-PF.