Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe will make a pitch to his fellow African Union leaders gathered for next week’s summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia to support his push for elections in 2012 without a new constitution or other key democratic reforms in place.
Mr. Mugabe and his ZANU-PF party say the national unity government is dysfunctional and accuse the Movement for Democratic Change of scuttling constitutional reforms.
African leaders will meet Sunday and Monday to discuss various continental issues.
In a statement, ZANU-PF spokesman Rugare Gumbo urged the African Union to “demand the holding of elections in Zimbabwe this year as well as the unconditional removal of economic sanctions by Western countries.”
Gumbo accused the two MDC formations in government of delaying completion of the new constitution to avoid new elections. He told VOA that elections cannot be put off beyond 2012. He said ZANU-PF is confident AU leaders will endorse this stance.
But Douglas Mwonzora, spokesman for Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai's MDC wing, said Gumbo is mistaken in claiming the MDC is sabotaging elections.
Zimbabwean state radio reported that South African President Jacob Zuma, mediating in Zimbabwe on behalf of the Southern African Development Community, will present a report to the AU on the situation there.
But his foreign policy adviser and Harare facilitator, Lindiwe Zulu, told VOA reporter Blessing Zulu that her boss had no such plans.
Meanwhile, representatives of Zimbabwean non-governmental organizations were lobbying AU leaders not to lose their focus on the Harare situation.
Human rights groups fear a return of political violence if elections are held, and are urging the AU and SADC as guarantors of the Global Political Agreement - which underpins the current "inclusive" government in Harare - to pressure Harare to institute reforms generally considered necessary for free, fair and non-violent elections.
Opening the High Court circuit this week in Gweru, Midlands province, Justice Lawrence Kamocha said cases of political violence were likely to surge in light of possible elections this year. He urged police and judicial officials to maintain impartiality.
Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition Regional Coordinator Dewa Mavhinga said civic groups have scheduled meetings with officials from the AU Peace and Security Council and the organization's Political Affairs Department to urge the continental body to send monitors to Zimbabwe to investigate whether conditions are right for elections.
He said the civic groups held a meeting with SADC Executive Secretary Tomaz Salamao who said he is planning a mission to Harare for talks with officials from the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission, all the political parties and civic organizations.
The mission will make an independent assessment of the political situation in the country before taking a stand on the issue of elections, Salamao is reported to have said.
Mavhinga told Violet Gonda that his group was set to present a report Friday to show the African leaders that Zimbabwe is not ready to hold new elections.