Mugabe surrenders on bid for early elections
Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe and his Zanu-PF party have given up on a bid for early elections this year, in line with a SADC resolution to delay polls until a number of reforms have been made.
The turnaround allows the party to quell growing fissures and disenchantment in its ranks over a divisive race to succeed Mugabe.
The Zimbabwean leader had previously repeatedly called for elections this year, a move that Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change and civic society groups have fiercely resisted.
President Jacob Zuma, the SA Development Community mediator for Zimbabwe, is expected to visit Harare soon to map the way for elections next year.
His visit has been delayed by the failure of the parties in Zimbabwe's fragile coalition government to finalise a new constitution, which the SADC regards as a pre-requisite for a credible election.
Zimbabwe Constitutional Affairs Minister Eric Matinenga said Zuma's visit, which will start negotiations expected to lead to fresh polls next year, was "dependent on the [finalisation of the] constitution". He said "good progress" had been made.
The parliamentary select committee drafting the new constitution said yesterday that the draft had been finalised and invited bids for the printing of the document.
The final draft will be handed to Mugabe and Tsvangirai this month.
"Things have stalled on the constitution but once it is given to the principals, Zuma will come and broker the way forward for elections," said a government official.
The SADC has also resolved that Zimbabwe's political parties must finalise security issues, ensure recognition of human rights, and make electoral and media reforms before the voting.
Zanu-PF has emerged crippled and unprepared for elections this year.