Assertions by President Robert Mugabe that elections should be held in March next year has received mixed reactions, with gullible smaller political formations welcoming the move which they believe will lead to a new political dispensation.
The wily Mugabe has been pushing for elections for more than two years now, notwithstanding dictates of the Global Political Agreement, which clearly spell out what needs to be done before polls are held.
These critical requirements were given impetus in the roadmap which the principals in the Government of National Unity (GNU) agreed to follow last year. The holding of elections should be guided by the roadmap and not parochial political concerns.
The country is currently off-track, far away from the route agreed to be followed towards elections. This suits Mugabe perfectly, as it has for a long time been his wish to hold elections on his terms and not on the basis of agreed conditions.
The whole idea of Sadc mediation which culminated in the formation of the GNU and the plotting of the roadmap, is to avoid the re-enactment of the 2008 chaos in future polls.
Ingredients for another sham poll are still there because Mugabe is not interested in rolling out the reform agenda as spelt out in the roadmap. It is worth noting that the greatest short-term risk to the consolidation of peace in the country remains the administration and conduct of the upcoming 2012 elections under current conditions.
Failure to reform the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act means that human rights defenders, journalists and political activists will continue to be arrested and charged on a regular basis. The regime will also continue to use Section 33 of the code to charge opponents for "insulting or undermining the authority of the president".
Added to this is Section 121 of the Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act which is often times abused by prosecutors to block release of suspects after bail has been granted.
The role of the military as a campaign agency for Zanu PF is a major source of worry. The reform agenda is way behind schedule. Zimbabwe cannot afford to once again have elections which do not represent the will of the people.