Relations between Zimbabwe's power-sharing ZANU-PF and MDC parties have already become mired in a debate over when the next elections can be held, President Robert Mugabe and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai reached some apparent compromise agreements in their latest meeting on Wednesday, Mr. Tsvangirai said.
The prime minister told reporters he and Mr. Mugabe had agreed that Police Commissioner-General Augustine Chihuri, whose recent reappointment by Mr. Mugabe drew fire from Mr. Tsvangirai's MDC, would serve in an "acting" capacity until such time as the unity government principals reach agreement on his full appointment.
Mr. Tsvangirai said he and Mr. Mugabe agreed to expedite the constitutional revision process to pave the way for elections in 2012 or next year.
He said they also agreed to reshuffle the staff of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission before elections - the MDC says the commission is packed with ZANU-PF loyalists.
Program director Joy Mabenge of the Institute for a Democratic Alternative for Zimbabwe told reporter Violet Gonda that without a time line all of these resolutions are meaningless.
“Commissioner Chihuri can act for as long as he wishes, he can act until the next election," Mabenge said. "So for as long as there is no time frame up to when he is going to be acting it’s a non-issue."
Election timing continues to stoke tensions between the parties in government with ZANU-PF Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa saying this week that Zimbabwe will hold elections under the present dispensation – not under rules set by a new constitution.
Others in ZANU-PF argued that a confidential letter from Mr. Tsvangirai to Mr. Mugabe that were leaked to the pro-ZANU-PF Sunday Mail suggested that Mr. Tsvangirai agrees with Mr. Mugabe on holding the next elections this year.
But Tsvangirai spokesman Luke Tamborinyoka, castigating the Sunday Mail for violating the Official Secrets Act, said the excerpts from the letters merely express the prime minister’s growing frustration with the long-strained governing partnership.
Tamborinyoka said Mr. Tsvangirai in the letter to Mr. Mugabe was in no way calling for or agreeing to elections this year without broad electoral, media and other reforms.
Tsvangirai pleaded with Mr. Mugabe to establish “an enabling environment for our people to exercise their right to choose their leaders freely and fairly”.
ZANU-PF hardliners led by former information minister Jonathan Moyo seized on the letter to demand quick elections, saying Mr. Tsvangirai’s comments on a “dysfunctional” government indicated that he was fed up and wanted to go to the country.
Mugabe spokesman George Charamba said the letter had not been leaked, suggesting one of Mr. Tsvangirai’s staff may have done so.
ZANU-PF spokesman Rugare Gumbo told reporter Blessing Zulu the MDC is stalling reforms and that ZANU-PF might be forced to call elections without reforms.
MDC spokesman Douglas Mwonzora accused ZANU-PF of stalling reforms.
Elsewhere, the Tsvangirai MDC formation said violence is on the rise again in Magunje district of Mashonaland West province, as ZANU-PF gears up for elections.
Sources say villagers now live in fear as every conversation and meeting turns political. They said two men linked to the Tsvangirai MDC were arrested on Wednesday following a violent episode over agricultural inputs including seed and fertilizer, which the MDC says are being handed out to ZANU-PF supporters only.
Local organizing secretary Wilson Makanyaire of the Tsvangirai MDC told VOA's Sandra Nyaira the situation is getting worse as calls for elections grow louder.
Makanyaire added that inputs being passed out by the ZANU-PF-controlled Grain Marketing Board are no longer useful for this farming season.