ZIMBABWE – President Robert Mugabe yesterday left the country for his annual vacation in the Far East and is expected back at the end of next month amid indications he has given up on a March election date.
Mugabe had threatened to announce an election date by December 25 if there was no breakthrough in the constitution-making process.
His spokesperson George Charamba confirmed that the 88- year-old leader had a taken break, but downplayed the impact of his absence on the timing of the general elections.
“The President left Harare this afternoon (yesterday) for the Far East on his traditional annual vacation,” he said.
“During his absence, Vice-President Joice Mujuru will be acting President.”
Charamba said Mugabe had only encouraged Copac to conclude the constitution-making process by Christmas when he made the threats during the Zanu PF annual conference early this month.
“The President goes on annual leave regularly. It is timed to coincide with that time when there is general slowdown in business and that does not take away the resolution of Zanu PF,” he said.
“When he comes back there should be progress, but if the document is not ready, that means there will be something that still needs discussion with the (inclusive government) principals.
“Let us not be . . . gleaning some quarters who think the fortunes or misfortunes should be put on the doorstep of the President.
“Let us not forget who asked for the new constitution and let us not forget that the country has a constitution anyway.
“The resolution of the party was to urge the committee to conclude by Christmas.
“And right now there is a shutdown in government business.
“There is no necessary link with him going on leave and the progress of the constitution-making process.”
He added: “With or without the new constitution we will go ahead with the presidential schedule which is not affected by him going on leave”.
Mugabe early this year indicated that he wanted the elections held by the end of March next year.
But legal experts have warned the date is not feasible because of the need to hold a referendum before the fresh elections.
The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) also wrote to Mugabe and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai indicating that it needed a 90-day notice to prepare for the elections.
Zanu PF, MDC-T and MDC are deadlocked on issues such as devolution of power, appointment of governors, executive powers for the President, the National Prosecuting Authority and dual citizenship in the new constitution.
Yesterday, the Cabinet committee that was set up by Mugabe and Tsvangirai to resolve the impasse finally met in Harare.
However, Constitutional and Parliamentary Affairs minister Eric Matinenga said he could not comment on what transpired at the meeting as he was driving. NewsDay