PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe yesterday said elections would be held by mid next year as the inclusive government cannot be extended by more than six months after its expiry in February 2011.
He said he could not stomach a prolonged extension of the shaky unity government, accusing Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai of being a sellout.
Addressing a Zanu PF youth league meeting in Harare, Mugabe said the constitution-making process should be fast-tracked to pave way for early elections, saying his partner in the coalition pact, Tsvangirai was being used by Western governments to remove him from power.
Mugabe explained that the inclusive government will end in February and it can only be extended by not more than six months to allow the writing of a new governance charter, an indication that Zimbabweans may go to the polls between July and August.
This is the first time Mugabe has come out clearly and given a timeframe of when Zimbabweans were likely to go for elections, despite pressure from the business community asking the inclusive government for a longer period to stabilise the economy. Mugabe reportedly ordered Finance minister Tendai Biti to budget $200 million for a referendum and elections.
Erstwhile rivals, Mugabe and Tsvangirai formed the inclusive government in February last year following the signing of the Global Political Agreement in September 2008.
“The constitution-making process has to be accelerated because the life of this creature (inclusive government) is only two years,” said Mugabe.
“It started in February last year and in February next year, it must end. It would have lived its full life and it will not be extended by more than six months or a year.”
“After a referendum then we have elections by mid next year. I don’t see any reason why we shouldn’t have elections next year.”
Mugabe described as “foolish and stupid” Tsvangirai’s decision to write to parliament, the judiciary and several countries calling on them to disregard unilateral public appointments made by the 86-year-old leader.
Mugabe recently re-appointed 10 provincial governors and appointed judges and ambassadors without consulting the Prime Minister as required by the GPA. Tsvangirai then attacked the President, saying the appointments showed Mugabe’s “rank madness”.
Mugabe told journalists after the youth league meeting that he re-appointed governors in accordance with the law and had no obligation to consult Tsvangirai.
”The MDC complaints are nonsensical because the governors were re-appointed as provided by the law.”
He shot down Tsvangirai’s claims that the constitution-making process was “messy” following violent clashes in Chitungwiza and Mbare which resulted in the suspension of the outreach process in the capital, arguing the process was smooth.
Mugabe accused Tsvangirai of toeing the line set by Europeans and Americans, the countries he said had imposed sanctions against Zimbabwe. Mugabe and top aide were slapped with a travel ban and asset freeze over gross human rights violations and electoral manipulation.
“Some of the things that Tsvangirai does are stupid and foolish,” said Mugabe. “He relies on Europeans to get advice. That’s why we need to have elections to end this inclusive government,” he said.
“The MDC runs to Europeans and Americans if we have our differences. Tsvangirai told British, French, Belgian and US ambassadors that I refused to appoint his governors. We are not sellouts; who are those white people Tsvangirai runs to.”
He said Tsvangirai should depend on Sadc and the African Union if he has complaints about the inclusive government. But, observers note, Tsvangirai also wrote to Sadc facilitator, South African president Jacob Zuma, highlighting Mugabe’s violation of the GPA.
Mugabe told his supporters to prepare for the polls. He predicted a win against Tsvangirai who pipped him to the post in March 2008, although the PM did not garner enough votes to declare him an outright winner.
He advised the youths to desist from political violence, which the MDC-T says left 200 supporters dead and thousands injured in June 2008’s sham presidential run-off. Mugabe also accused MDC-T for failing to come up with policies to turnaround the economic fortunes of the country.
“The MDC-T only says Mugabe must go, Zanu PF must go; they want a regime change agenda in line with their imperialists’ bosses but they have nothing to offer. Who are they to say Mugabe must go?” he said.
Since the inception of MDC in 1999, Tsvangirai has pushed to remove Mugabe from power but the country’s ruler for 30 years has been accused of rigging elections and intimidating political opponents to stay in power. The rivals have met twice, in 2002 and 2008, in presidential elections.
“Tsvangirai tell us where you were when Zanu PF was fighting for the liberation of the country. So who are you to tell me to go? Who are you to say I should go,” Mugabe told his cheering youth league members.
Both Mugabe and Tsvangirai have indicated several times that elections were imminent next year while the other inclusive government partner Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara has campaigned against the polls. Mutambara and civil society say electoral and democratic reforms should precede the plebiscite.