SA demands reforms in Zimbabwe before polls

South Africa on Monday dismissed a push by Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe for new polls without long-delayed reforms required by the country’s unity deal.

International Relations and Cooperation Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane said Pretoria expects the power-sharing pact, known as the global political agreement (GPA), to be fully in place with a new constitution approved by referendum before new elections.

“The GPA envisages that an election in Zimbabwe will only be held following the finalisation of the constitution-making process,” Nkoana-Mashabane said in a reply to a parliamentary question, acknowledging delays.

A committee “is drafting a new constitution, after which a referendum and then elections should be held. Our government therefore expect that there would be no deviation from the provisions of the GPA,” she added.

Mugabe has repeatedly called for Zimbabwe to go to the polls this year, even if the new charter isn’t in place. Reforms to media and the electoral laws are required under the uneasy power-sharing arrangement with the country’s Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai.

“We just must have elections. They just must take place with or without a new constitution. If others don’t want to have an election then they are free not to participate,” he said last month.

President Jacob Zuma is tasked by the Southern African Development Community (SADC) bloc to help Zimbabwe put in place the deal which Pretoria brokered in 2008.

Mugabe, in power since independence in 1980, has already been endorsed as his party’s candidate for a new vote to end the compromise government formed to stem an economic crisis and political melt-down after blood-stained polls in 2008.

Zimbabwe’s constitution-drafting commission says a referendum on the charter could not be held before August, meaning elections under the new constitution would not likely be until next year. — AFP

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