Zimbabwe: Mugabe Sets Election Date

PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe wants this year's elections to be held on June 29, but a faction within his Zanu PF is opposed to the date fearing that the party is not yet ready for polls, senior officials have said.

Sources told The Standard last week that Mugabe had told senior party officials to prepare for elections on June 29.

"The President [Mugabe] said the cut-off date for an election is June 29 and not any other day later," said a Politburo member.

"He wants all the processes leading to elections, including the voter registration and voter education exercises to be done as soon as possible."

The official said Mugabe had indicated that he might proclaim the dates for the elections, at the same time that he would announce the dates for the referendum on a new constitution.

"It's a gamble which Mugabe appears set to take," said another senior party official.

The Zanu PF official said Mugabe's confidence of winning stemmed from the fact that Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai had been weakened by scandals and the failure by the MDC-T to deliver on many promises the party made when it joined the coalition government four years ago.

He said Mugabe also believed the party lost the 2008 elections due to the imposition of candidates and now wanted all top Zanu PF officials to be challenged during primary elections.

"Mugabe is saying, let the best candidate win, whether he or she is a 'Young Turk' or party veteran," said the official. "Resistance is however coming from some senior party officials who want safe seats to be reserved for them."

Zanu PF was also hoping to win the elections by dangling the indigenisation carrot to voters who would be promised majority shareholding in foreign-owned firms.

But the official said some members of the faction loyal to Vice-President Joice Mujuru were against the idea of holding elections on the proposed date.

They were said to be of the view that Zanu PF and Mugabe had no realistic chance of winning. "The Mujuru faction is still wary of the protest vote," said the official.

Some of the Mujuru loyalists wanted elections next year, while others were supportive of Ibbo Mandaza's idea of another GNU.

The faction loyal to Defence minister, Emmerson Mnangagwa wanted elections in March this year with or without a new constitution, but their idea was shot down by Sadc and the MDCs. Zanu PF spokesperson, Rugare Gumbo could neither deny nor confirm that his party now had a date for the elections.

"We will go on what the (GPA) principals say," he said. Gumbo said depending on how the constitution-making proceeds, the Zanu PF politburo might meet soon to decide on party primary elections and national polls.

He reiterated his party's position that following the recent agreement on the new draft constitution, there was no need to implement more reforms in the country.

"Reforms will come after elections. If they (MDCs) win then, they will implement the reforms they want," said Gumbo. Zanu PF secretary for administration, Didymus Mutasa, told The Standard recently that it was individual members and not Zanu PF as a party opposed to early elections.

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