South African President Thabo Mbeki, who is mandated by the Southern African Development Community (SADC) to mediate between Zimbabwe?s ruling ZANU-PF party and the main opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) has expressed confidence in Zimbabwe?s elections next year. This comes after President Robert Mugabe promised a resounding victory for his ZANU-PF party during a speech Wednesday to war veterans.  But the opposition MDC has dismissed Mbeki?s pronouncement, saying Zimbabweans are the only people who can determine whether the elections would be free and fair.

Eliphas Mukonoweshuro is the International Affairs Secretary of the opposition MDC. From the capital, Harare he tells reporter Peter Clottey that President Mbeki should desist from making such statements.

?We are encouraged by that statement, but that statement has got to be based on the facts on the ground. Free and fair elections are not a wish; they must be issues that are discussed, political issues that would ensure that we get free and fair elections,? Mukonoweshuro noted.

He said Mbeki?s? expression of confidence in Zimbabwe?s electoral system is not enough, since, he said there are other issues that need to be addressed.

?What we are saying is that, for instance, let?s look at the voters? role.  Is the voters? role acceptable to all Zimbabweans? There is violence that is going on, why doesn?t Mr. Mbeki address himself to the issues of the violence that is going on? There are so many other issues that we should in actual fact as a negotiating process look at before we can pronounce confidence or otherwise in the process,? he said.

Mukonoweshuro reiterated that Zimbabwe?s election is not a preserve of President Thabo Mbeki.

?I think Mr. Mbeki is not the person to express confidence in the freeness and fairness of the elections. It is Zimbabweans who must express confidence in the freeness and fairness of the elections; it is the MDC and ZANU-PF that must pronounce on that issue. Mr. Mbeki who is the arbitrator should not be the one who is saying now he is got confidence,? Mukonoweshuro pointed out.

He said President Mugabe?s declaration of winning next year?s elections in a resounding manner is questionable.

?Perhaps he knows something that we do not have. A democratic process cannot be pre-determined by any person or a politician? I think it is not for Mr. Mugabe to decide what is going to happen. It is going to have to be freeness and fairness of the elections, no democrat can pre-empt what is going to happen when the voters express their wishes. We are worried Mr. Mbeki is not making any comment on that because Mr. Mugabe is going full speed putting in place legislative procedures that we believe ought to be a subject of negotiations,? he said.