Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe and his ZANU-PF party are preparing to roll back on their demand that new elections be organized this year amid growing pressure from within and outside the country, sources close to intra-government talks said Friday.
The Southern African Development Community and its mediator in Harare, South African President Jacob Zuma, have signaled that they won’t bless a snap election unless all signatories to the 2008 Global Political Agreement agree on the proposed date.
Negotiators for the three unity government parties - including ZANU-PF - delivered the final blow to hopes among ZANU-PF hardliners pressing for elections this year. The negotiators concluded that elections can only be held next year at the earliest.
The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission has said it lacks the means to run 2001 elections, noting that its funding is insufficient and its staff needs additional training. The Electoral Commission was reconstituted in 2010, replacing its discredited predecessor whose handling of 2008 election results drew international condemnation.
Asked about the possible election date, Lindiwe Zulu, an adviser to Mr. Zuma, said this will largely be determined by the road map negotiators have sent to their principals.
ZANU-PF Chairman Simon Khaya Moyo referred all questions to the party’s negotiators but hinted that the party is backpedaling from its earlier call for 2011 elections.
Energy Minister Elton Mangoma, a negotiator for the Movement for Democratic Change formation of Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, said that he and all of his fellow unity government party negotiators agree that elections are not possible this year.
Edwin Mushoriwa, a negotiator for the Welshman Ncube-led MDC formation, added that it will suicidal for Mr. Mugabe to call snap elections, as some fear he still may.
Elsewhere, street battles and rock-throwing brought the Bulawayo provincial elections for the Tsvangirai MDC formation to a premature end on Friday.
Dozens of youths backing the rival candidacies of Senator Matson Hlalo and State Enterprises Minister Gorden Moyo, formerly a senior aide to Prime Minister Tsvangirai, escalated their differences into a street fight in the Matabeleland capital pelting each other with stones, smashing cars and fighting each other in the city center, correspondent Thabang Mathebula reported from Bulawayo.
Commenting, political analyst Effie Dlela Ncube said it is time for Mr. Tsvangirai to show leadership and stop the violence and bitter wrangling within his party which has seen a number of such incidents on its way to a May congress to ready for elections.