Endorsed by his ruling ZANU-PF party on the first day of an extraordinary congress on Thursday in Harare, President Robert Mugabe told delegates to the meeting that presidential and general elections will take place in March "without fail."

All 10 provincial organizations of the Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front backed the endorsement of a sixth term for Mr. Mugabe, who turns 84 in February. The vote came late Thursday evening on day one of the ZANU-PF congress.

The president dispelled growing uncertainty as to the election timetable. "I want to emphasize that the elections will be held in March without fail," he said. "If there are any political parties that are not ready for elections, we are not to blame."

The opposition Movement for Democratic Change has demanded that the elections be postponed until six months after the conclusion of crisis resolution talks still under way with mediation by South African President Thabo Mbeki and his senior aides.

Analyst Tapera Kapuya, a fellow at the National Endowment for Democracy in Washington, told reporter Patience Rusere of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that Mr. Mugabe wants elections before the talks are concluded or implemented to avert possible defeat.

Former ZANU-PF official Edgar Tekere said the ruling party's endorsement of Mr. Mugabe does not necessarily mean everyone in its ranks is behind him.

Elsewhere, Mr. Mugabe has threatened another price crackdown on businesses, saying the beneficiaries of black empowerment programs overcharging.

He told members of his party?s central committee Wednesday that most of the businesses demanding excessive prices are owned or controlled by the same people helped by the government under the black empowerment program.

In late June the government unleashed a price blitz that resulted in store shelves being stripped bare, following which producing companies were unwilling to provide replacement goods at prices that would leave them sitting on massive losses.

Zimbabwe National Chamber of Commerce President Marah Hativagone told reporter Jonga Kandemiiri that Mr. Mugabe should not blame businesses but government policies which have crippled national commerce.

More reports from VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe...