Zim elections before March next year

2011-09-03 16:20

Zimbabwe’s President Robert ­Mugabe this weekend announced that the country will hold elections by March next year.

Speaking at Zanu-PF’s ­national consultative assembly (NCA) in Harare at the weekend, Mugabe said: “We cannot go ­beyond March next year, I will ­definitely ­announce that date.

“Once I announce that date,­ ­everyone will follow. I have the ­constitutional right to name an election date with the Global Political Agreement or not. We cannot continue to have this dilly-dallying.”

Calls for elections next year by Mugabe are seen by observers as a major climb down for the leader, who has – in the past – insisted polls be held at the end of this year.

His calls have put him at loggerheads with the Southern African Development Community, which has been pushing for Zimbabwe to hold polls either at the end of next year or 2013.

In his address to the NCA, ­Mugabe also took a swipe at the fractious unity government he entered into in February 2009 with his Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) rival Morgan ­Tsvangirai, describing it as surviving on “stolen time”, and urging its speedy end.

“This year is coming to an end. The inclusive government has run its full course and whatever time it is having now is actually stolen time,” Mugabe said.

It is perceived that an early poll will work in Mugabe’s favour as speculation mounts that old age and ill-health may prevent him from mounting a vigorous ­campaign.

Meanwhile, Zimbabwe’s deputy prime minister Arthur Mutambara fuelled speculation about Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi seeking refuge in Zimbabwe. He told ­parliament that Harare may ­welcome him to facilitate a smooth transition in Libya.

Mutambara said: “I want to ­disabuse people of the notion that if an individual is not wanted in their own country, they should not be given asylum.

“Sometimes they are given that asylum to allow for change in their own country.”

Since 1991, Zimbabwe has given sanctuary to the deposed Ethiopian leader, Mengistu Haile Mariam.

The expulsion of Libya’s ambassador to Zimbabwe, Taher Emalgrahi, this week sparked fresh bickering within the country’s deeply divided unity government.

It has emerged that Mugabe’s Zanu-PF party made a “unilateral” decision to expel Emalgrahi and his 10 staff without consultation with the two MDC formations.

Douglas Mwonzora, the spokesperson for the Morgan Tsvangirai-led MDC, said: “It is a Zanu-PF decision. Maybe Mugabe is taking advantage of the fact that the ambassadors present credentials to him.”

Zimbabwe’s foreign affairs minister Simbarashe Mumbengegwi, a close Mugabe ally, on Tuesday issued a “72-hour ultimatum” to Emalgrahi and his staff to leave.

Mumbengegwi cited that Emalgrahi had “switched sides” and left Gaddafi’s Tripoli government – which Harare recognises – for the rebel-led ­national transitional council (NTC), which made him persona non grata in the country.

Since Gaddafi’s fall last week and the rebels’ control of Tripoli and their seizure of his Bab al-Azizia compound, political speculation has been mounting that Harare may offer sanctuary to the deposed Libyan strongman.

Mugabe has strong ties with Gaddafi.

Libya’s 2002 deals with Zimbabwe, struck during Gaddafi’s visit, have already come under the spotlight fuelled by revelations from a Libyan diplomat that the string of Zimbabwe investments were for Gaddafi’s personal benefit.

The Libyan government holds several key mining, agricultural and tourism ventures in the country and among these a 14% stake in Zimbabwe’s largest commercial bank by deposits, CBZ Holdings.

It is understood the MDC is mulling a probe into the deals, and is keen to mount a clean break from the old regime of Gaddafi in support of the new NTC democracy.

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