Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe wants to hold elections in March 2013 with a referendum on a new constitution this November, court papers reveal.
His long-time rivals in the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) have condemned this timetable as “unrealistic”.
The two sides are unable to agree on a draft constitution, which is supposed to be in place before the new election.
Until now, Robert Mugabe, 88, has always insisted that the elections should be held this year.
Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe wants to hold elections in March 2013
The MDC, led by Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, backed by South African mediators, insists that a new constitution is in place before the new polls to ensure they are free and fair.
President Robert Mugabe, who has been in power since independence in 1980, denies accusations that previous elections were rigged in his favour.
Morgan Tsvangirai pulled out of the previous election, in 2008, citing systematic attacks on his supporters by the army and pro-Mugabe militias.
With the uncertainty pushing Zimbabwe’s economy into freefall, the pair then agreed to form a power-sharing government.
Robert Mugabe’s proposed election timetable was included in court papers in a case about when to hold by-elections.
The Supreme Court had ordered that by-elections for several vacant parliamentary seats be held by 1 October. However the president has appealed against the ruling, saying it would cost too much money when wider elections are expected soon.
This is by no means a fixed date for Zimbabwe’s long-awaited elections, but it is a sign of growing urgency.
But it was immediately rejected by MDC spokesman Douglas Mwonzora.
“The date for the election, especially, is unilateral, unrealistic and has no scientific or legal basis,” he told the AFP news agency.
Robert Mugabe and Morgan Tsvangirai would be expected to face each other in the poll, which is supposed to be held by next year.
A court in Zimbabwe has thrown out a bid by Locadia Tembo to block Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s wedding on Saturday to his fiancée, Elizabeth Macheka.
Locadia Tembo had argued that the wedding could not take place because she was Morgan Tsvangirai’s wife under customary law.
But High Court Judge Antonia Guvava ruled such marriages were not valid.
President Robert Mugabe, who is in a fractious coalition with Morgan Tsvangirai, is due to attend the wedding.
The wedding is expected to take place in an upmarket area north of the capital, Harare.
Robert Mugabe is billed to host a post-wedding banquet for other heads of state who will be there, he says.
Locadia Tembo had argued that Morgan Tsvangirai’s wedding could not take place because she was his wife under customary law
Morgan Tsvangirai, 59, and Robert Mugabe – the leaders of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) and Zanu-PF respectively – are expected to run against each other in presidential elections, due next year.
The case brought by Locadia Tembo, a 39-year-old commodity trader and sister of an MP from Zanu-PF, was heard in chambers in the High Court in Harare.
The judge ruled that marriages under customary law were not valid, expect for certain purposes such as the distribution of matrimonial property.
He also said the case should have been dealt with by a marriage officer at a magistrate’s court.
Locadia Tembo’s lawyer, Everson Samkange, said he would now lodge a further objection to the marriage with the magistrate’s court, which could lead to a commission of inquiry if the case goes ahead.
But Morgan Tsvangirai’s lawyer, Innocent Chagonda, said he welcomed the fact that “legal impediments” had been removed ahead of the wedding.
“There was no basis upon which [Locadia Tembo] could have interdicted the prime minister from getting married,” he said.
“An unregistered customary law marriage is not a valid marriage at all. It is valid for only certain purposes which have nothing to do with what we have been talking about.”
Locadia Tembo, a businesswoman, has been demanding $15,000 a month in maintenance expenses from the prime minister.
Morgan Tsvangirai’s 35-year-old bride is the daughter of Zanu-PF loyalist and former Chitungwiza mayor, Joseph Macheka.
In November, reports said that Locadia Tembo and Morgan Tsvangirai held a traditional wedding and Tsvangirai had paid a bride price of several hundred thousand dollars.
Shortly thereafter, Morgan Tsvangirai said their relationship had been “irretrievably damaged” after it was “hijacked” by his opponents, including state security agents.
Morgan Tsvangirai’s first wife, Susan, died in a car crash soon after he became prime minister in 2009.
One person has been killed and 15 others were injured in a crash involving Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe’s motorcade, police say.
A car in the motorcade hit a commuter bus near the rural town of Zvimba – the third such accident in two weeks.
Police spokesman Wayne Bvudzijena said Sunday’s accident happened because the bus failed to make way for the president’s vehicles quickly enough.
President Robert Mugabe typically travels with an escort of around 10 vehicles.
His motorcade typically includes the presidential limousine, motorcycles and army vehicles.
One person has been killed and 15 others were injured in a crash involving Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe's motorcade
The car involved in the crash on the Robert Mugabe highway outside the president’s home town of Zvimba is thought to have been leading the motorcade.
The national police spokesman said the bus driver had failed to heed the siren and beacon of the escort vehicle, leading to a head-on collision between the minibus and a police car.
“One passenger in the commuter bus died on the spot while 15 passengers from both vehicles were injured in the accident,” Wayne Bvudzijena told the AFP news agency.
He urged motorists to “pull off the road when they hear a siren or see a red or blue beacon”.
Police VIP protection spokesman Martin Mbokochena criticized what he called “some unruly elements in society who want to disturb”.
Two weeks ago, a motorbike in the presidential cavalcade hit and killed a homeless man during another visit to the president’s home town.
A member of the presidential guard died and seven others were hurt in a separate leg of the same trip, when a truck in the motorcade overturned after one of its tires burst.