President Robert Mugabe's ruling ZANU-PF party has dismissed as frivolous and an affront to Zimbabweans calls by the leader of the main opposition for fresh elections. Morgan Tsvangirai of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) is challenging President Mugabe to fresh elections under international supervision, which he predicts he would win. Tsvangirai added that his MDC would rather quit the stalled power-sharing talks than sign an unsatisfactory deal, which he claimed would be detrimental to the opposition.

George Mkwananzi is the deputy chairperson of the National Constitution Assembly. He tells reporter Peter Clottey from South Africa's capital, Pretoria, that Tsvangirai's call will meet stiff resistance from both President Mugabe and Southern African Development Community (SADC), a regional body.

"Let me start by saying that there is nothing wrong on the part of the MDC or its president to demand this, particularly by upping their stakes in these negotiations. But as far as I can see that is a demand that is likely to meet very stiff resistance not only from ZANU-PF and Robert Mugabe, but also from the SADC region, which thinks that it has everything under control. It has recommended that negotiations under the facilitation of Thabo Mbeki (South Africa's President) must continue and believe that the negotiation will produce a settlement for Zimbabwe," Mkwananzi noted.

He said the regional body would not be pleased with the demand of opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai.

"They (SADC) would feel that they are being undermined, they are being bypassed and there is no confidence that is being expressed on their abilities and capacities to bring a solution for the crisis in Zimbabwe. So, that is the major stumbling block for such a call," he said.

Mkwananzi said President Mugabe could name his cabinet this week despite strong opposition from the MDC, which has said such a move would erode any gains made at the stalled peace negotiations in South Africa.

"Yeah, Mugabe is an old and stubborn fellow. He can go ahead and pout together a cabinet after all he has nothing else to lose, except to save his face by appearing to be brave and in charge. So, he can actually go ahead and do that in spite of the consequences, which he knows very well that it would mean a deepening of the crisis, it would mean the skyrocketing of prices it would mean the inflation getting worse and worse. He can still go ahead in spite of all these things," Mkwananzi pointed out.

 He said former Zambian President Kenneth Kaunda's call for both sides in the Zimbabwe political crisis to bury the hatchet might fall on deaf ears.

"I don't think it is a fresh call because that has been a call from everybody. I don't think Robert Mugabe respects Kaunda that much for him to begin to take such a call seriously because if you know they were never really good friends even during the time of the liberation struggle. He (Kaunda) was more of Nkomo ZAPU man. So, I don't think it adds any dimension to the current calls by other people on this issue," he said.

Mkwananzi said the opposition could put the ruling ZANU-PF party under pressure in order to be taken seriously.

"I believe if the MDC can actually accompany their talks for the demand for fresh elections supervised by the international body, if it can be accompanied by very strong mass action, if they can mobilize people in Zimbabwe and make that country ungovernable, then they would be able to force Mugabe to take them seriously, and in fact would be forced to take the talks seriously, and they would concede," Mkwananzi noted.