By Nelson Banya – Zimbabwe’s power-sharing government expires in four months and should not be extended, leading to new elections by mid-2011, President Robert Mugabe said in comments broadcast on Friday.
In comments aired on state television as he addressed his ZANU-PF supporters, Mugabe said the country should hold a referendum on a new constitution early in 2011 and elections shortly afterwards.
“After a referendum then we have elections by mid next year. I don’t see any reason why we shouldn’t have elections next year,” Mugabe said.
He expressed frustration with constant wrangling within the coalition government, saying the political agreement he signed with Tsvangirai had a two-year life-span and would expire in February 2011.
“February next year, which is about four months to go, then it will have lived its full life and I do not know what is going to happen if we are not ready with a constitution,” Mugabe said.
“Some will say let us negotiate and give it another life. I am reluctant because part of the things that are happening (in the coalition) are foolish.”
The power-sharing pact, signed on September 15 2008 after months of wrangling, is silent on how long the coalition government should last, but gives a 24-month timetable for the crafting of a new constitution seen as key for free and fair elections.
The constitutional reform process is almost a year behind schedule, held back by lack of funding and bickering over the composition of committees. An inter-party parliamentary committee driving the reforms has said it expects a referendum on the draft charter by June 2011.
Mugabe said the remaining public hearings on the proposed charter needed to be concluded early to pave way for a referendum and subsequent elections.
“I do not see any reason why we cannot do that. So, are you prepared for elections?” he said to cheers from supporters.
The hearings were suspended in the capital Harare after violent clashes blamed on Mugabe’s party.
Mugabe’s comments come at a time when tensions have risen in the unity government, which saw Tsvangirai boycotting the weekly cabinet meeting on Wednesday in protest over what he says are unilateral appointments of senior state officials by Mugabe.
Last week, Tsvangirai said his MDC party rejected all senior appointments — including that of central bank governor, attorney-general, six ambassadors and five judges — made by Mugabe without consulting him. Mugabe says the appointments were made in line with the constitution.
Although the coalition government has stabilised Zimbabwe’s economy, Mugabe and Tsvangirai have also frequently clashed over the pace of political reforms and Western sanctions imposed on the veteran ruler and his inner circle.
(Editing by Peter Graff)