Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe, during the second Afro-Arab summit in Sirte, Libya, 10 Oc 2010 (file photo)
Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe, during the second Afro-Arab summit in Sirte, Libya, 10 Oc 2010 (file photo)

There was anxiety in the streets of Zimbabwe over comments made by President Robert Mugabe that the country's power-sharing agreement was approaching the end of its life span.  Though he no longer has the power to call elections, Mr. Mugabe told a meeting of youth leaders that once the power-sharing government had been dissolved, there would be elections by mid 2011.

School teacher Mary Zava said that she feared retaliation by ZANU-PF, like it did in the last poll in 2008.  "I think they have should have waited a while before getting into elections because of the situation in the country at the moment. There hasn't been much healing in the nation."

Mr. Mugabe's remarks contradict the terms of the so-called global political agreement, which followed an election marred by widespread fraud and violence.  The agreement said a referendum on a new constitution should take place within two years, to be followed by a general election.

The process of consulting the public on a new constitution, however, has been delayed - mostly by lack of funds and disruption by ZANU-PF activists.

Public watch dog Veritas, which monitors legislation and constitutional affairs in Zimbabwe, said a constitutional covers the political agreement that states all three parties must sign off for an election to take place.  Mr. Mugabe's long time rival - Movement for Democratic Change leader, and now Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai - signed the political agreement together with Arthur Mutambara, leader of the small faction of the MDC party.

Two weeks ago, Welshman Ncube, now MDC industry minister in the inclusive government, set June 30 for the referendum for people to decide whether  to support a draft of a new constitution.

Lovemore Matombo, president of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions, is worried about Mr. Mugabe's statement.  "This call for elections before the 30 June is somewhat  dicey because the elements of violence have not yet been removed."

International human rights groups said that at the last elections, narrowly won by the MDC, about 200 of Mr. Tsvangirai's supporters were killed and hundreds more were wounded.  MDC Secretary-General Tendai Biti, now finance minister in the inclusive government, was one of hundreds arrested during the election period.