March 6, 2012

South Africa demands reforms before polls

South Africa has dismissed a push by 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 expected 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 is not in place. “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 in February. 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.

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. (Mail&Guardian)

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