Zimbabwe’s Tsvangirai Says Won’t Commit to Polls

Sept. 21 (Bloomberg) -- Zimbabwean Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai said he won’t commit the southern African nation or his Movement for Democratic Change party to elections “characterized by violence and thuggery.”

“There is an election planned, but when or whether it will take place is unclear,” he said today by phone from the capital, Harare.

President Robert Mugabe’s Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front party, one half of a unity government with the MDC, is using its supporters to intimidate people at public debates into a new constitution, Tsvangirai said. Calls to Zanu-PF headquarters in Harare weren’t immediately answered.

“First there must be a referendum on the constitution, and if there is no clear way forward, we must re-debate that constitution,” Tsvangirai said. “Right now the constitution debates in the country and urban areas are being marred by the sort of violence we saw in 2008.”

Zimbabwe’s government has pledged to write a new constitution to provide the basis for elections and help end a decade of instability. Mugabe and Tsvangirai formed a power-sharing government in February last year after violence against the MDC’s supporters before an election run-off led Tsvangirai to withdraw from the contest.

Zimbabwe’s Parliamentary Select Committee on the Constitution, known as Copac, has been holding debates across Zimbabwe on the new charter.

MDC supporters in Harare’s poor inner-city township were attacked and injured at a debate over the weekend, Tsvangirai said, without providing further details because “reports of injuries are still coming in.”

“What I can say is that this is a stark reminder of our violent past and a threat to our bright future,” he said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Brian Latham in Durban, South Africa at blatham@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Antony Sguazzin in Johannesburg at asguazzin@bloomberg.net.