Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa has announced elections will be held on July 30, prompting fighting talk from the opposition as the country prepares for the first polls without long-time former leader Robert Mugabe on the ballot.
Mnangagwa, 75, will likely be squaring off against Nelson Chamisa, the youthful leader of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), which lost its stalwart, Morgan Tsvangirai, to cancer earlier this year.
Known by his nickname “The Crocodile,” Mnangagwa was a long-standing ally of Mugabe before the latter sacked him. His firing precipitated a military coup last November in which Mugabe was forced to resign and Mnangagwa and his deputy, former army general Constantino Chiwenga, came to power.
Mugabe was continually accused of violently suppressing the opposition and rigging elections during his more than three decades in office. Mnangagwa has promised international observers will be allowed back and elections will be free and fair.
The country was expected to hold elections in July or August and the date was announced in the Government Gazette on Wednesday.
“The Zimbabwe Election Commission is hereby advised to fix Monday, the 30th of July as the day of the election of the office of President, the election of members of House of Assembly and election of councillors,” Mnangagwa said in the gazette.
On Monday, Mnangagwa signed the Electoral Amendment Act into law which empowers the election commission to “carry out voter education in an adequate, accurate and unbiased and gender sensitive manner.”
Also Monday, the European Union signed a memorandum of understanding with Zimbabwe to deploy an election observer mission to the country for the first time since 2002.
After the announcement of the election date, one confident opposition member told dpa it was “game on.”
However, MDC spokeswoman Thabita Khumalo went on to say that not all the opposition’s requested reforms have been met.
“Mnangagwa has just applied lipstick reforms… The state broadcaster is still biased in favour of the ruling party and the government has shut the door for people living outside the country to vote,” she said.
“However, as MDC it’s a game on, we are going to win the election slated for July 30.”
According to the Zimbabwe Election Commission, 133 parties are going to contest the elections.