A meeting by southern African leaders to discuss ground rules for the coming Zimbabwean elections has been postponed at the instigation of President Robert Mugabe and his ZANU-PF party.
The meeting by the 15-nation Southern African Development Community (SADC) leaders was originally set this weekend for Maputo, the Mozambican capital. But now it is expected to take place in South Africa.
Zimbabwe's Finance Minister Tendai Biti explains.
"The ZANU-PF through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs wrote a letter saying President Mugabe... a letter saying he needs time to study the constitutional judgment. But he will be available from the 10th [of June], from Monday onwards. We might yell or bark, and so forth, we are all going to SADC. We are all going to be bide by SADC," Biti said.
The constitutional judgment Biti refers to is the ruling from Zimbabwe's Constitutional Court saying elections must be held by July 31. Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and his supporters oppose holding the elections that soon, saying reforms of the electoral laws and security forces must be done first to ensure the elections are free and fair.
Human Rights Watch said this week that security forces loyal to President Mugabe have been beating, intimidating and abusing people they see as critical of the government ahead of the polls.
Another problem is money; Biti has said Zimbabwe does not have the funds to hold the elections.
Biti said Friday that ZANU-PF pushed for postponement of the SADC meeting because it feared losing the polls.
But ZANU-PF Rugare Gumbo spokesman flatly denied that notion.
"We have always said we are ready. ZANU-PF is a well-oiled machine. It will meet an emergency or an issue that might arise. So we are ready," Gumbo said.
In Zimbabwe’s 2008 elections, ZANU-PF lost its majority in parliament for the first time since 1980 to Tsvangirai's MDC party.
The term of the parliament ends this month.
Mugabe, 89-years-old, is seeking another five-year term after 33 years in power. The elections will be held under a new constitution which was signed into law by Mugabe last month.