Mugabe threatens to pull out of constitution talks


Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe threatened to pull out of a process to draft a new constitution, accusing his coalition partners of delays designed to avoid holding elections this year.

Mugabe and his ZANU-PF party, forced into a unity government with Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) after a disputed election in 2008, is pushing for early presidential and parliamentary elections this year.

The MDC has warned Mugabe to drop his party’s plans for an early election, saying it could lead to a bloodbath. Tsvangirai has threatened to boycott the elections if they are called this year, Reuters reports.
“We would want to get to elections as soon as possible within the process, but if others are there to drag the process, we will get out of the process,” Mugabe told supporters at a party to celebrate his 87th birthday.

Many Zimbabweans hope the new constitution, replacing one drafted in 1979 before independence from Britain, will strengthen the role of parliament, curtail the president’s powers and guarantee civil, political and media reforms.

The process has been slowed by funding problems and squabbles over the composition of committees.
“We would have to have good reason to say those processes are not possible this year and the explanation should be given. We must never accept that money is the problem. Money is not the problem at all,” Mugabe said.

Mugabe has been in power since independence in 1980 and while his election plans have angered poor Zimbabweans, political analysts say he is unlikely to be forced out by a popular uprising such as those in Egypt and Tunisia.
“My body may get spent but I wish my mind will always remain with you and think not of old ideas of an aged person but ideas of a young person,” Mugabe said in an hour-long speech at the event.

He repeated threats that the government would take action to seize foreign companies from Western countries that had imposed sanctions on ZANU-PF, adding that he would launch an anti-sanctions campaign next week.

He said Swiss food company Nestle, which terminated a milk contract with Mugabe’s dairy farm at the end of 2009, could be one of the first firms for takeover.