HARMONISED elections will be held in the last week of March next year and the proclamation of the actual dates will be done in due course, President Mugabe has said.
He said the referendum was expected in the first week of November.
This came out in an urgent application which the Head of State and Government and Commander-in-Chief of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces filed at the High Court yesterday seeking an extension of the deadline to proclaim dates for by-elections in three vacant constituencies.
"Accordingly, due to the unavailability of financial resources applicant is asking that the holding of the by-elections be further extended to 31st March, 2013, the idea being to subsume the holding of the by-elections in the harmonised elections to be held in the last week of March 2013," said President Mugabe in an application filed on his behalf by Justice and Legal Affairs Minister Patrick Chinamasa.
"The applicant's desire is to hold the harmonised elections in the last week of March, 2013 and a proclamation to this effect will be made at the appropriate time." The High Court had given the President up to next Monday to announce dates for by-elections in Nkayi South, Bulilima East and Lupane.
This was after the President sought an extension of the initial deadline of August 30 by a month.
The constituencies fell vacant after the incumbents --- Abednico Bhebhe (Nkayi South), Njabuliso Mguni (Lupane East) and Norman Mpofu (Bulilima East) --- were fired by the MDC.
President Mugabe argued that Government did not have resources to fund the by-elections, referendum and harmonised elections within six months.
"I need to inform this honourable court that if we factor in the holding of by-elections, there would be three key events to take place and to be funded by Government within the duration of six months," he said.
"These events are the referendum, (expected to take place during the first week of November), the by-elections (which if a proclamation is done by the 1st October, 2012 would take place in December 2012) and the harmonised general elections (by the end of March 2013).
"This makes the six months period from 1st October, 2012 heavily congested with important national events," said the President.
He argued that by-elections, according to the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission, required US$47 547 036, the referendum needed US$104 651 273, while harmonised elections would gobble US$115 374 890.
"There have been consultations over the financial resources required for holding these three key events.
"If we take into account the costs as at present, the funds are not available to hold by-elections."
President Mugabe said there were 16 vacant House of Assembly seats, 10 Senatorial seats (now 11 following the death of MDCT-Senator for Chipinge Mr Josiah Rimbi on Monday), two chiefs' seats and 164 local authority seats.
"Although the original High Court order related to three parliamentary vacant seats only, the legal position obtaining in those three vacant seats is equally applicable to all vacant seats," argued President Mugabe.
"As a matter of fact, there is an application pending in the High Court for an order requiring by-elections to be held in the rest of the vacant seats countrywide.
"Holding by-elections on such magnitude is tantamount to holding a mini-general election. There is no province, administrative district that would be spared of one form of political campaigning or other."
President Mugabe argued that the vacant seats were spread across the country, making them more costly to hold.
Bhebhe, Mguni and Mpofu were expelled from the MDC and were subsequently relieved of their parliamentary positions.
The trio instituted court action after declaring interest in contesting for the constituencies as independent candidates.