By Tichaona Sibanda, SW Radio Africa (London)

President Robert Mugabe on Monday insisted elections to choose a new government will be held in March next year, despite fears the country is not yet ready for another poll.

Addressing delegates to the COPAC, second all-stakeholders conference that opened in Harare, Mugabe said a peaceful conference that agrees upon a new constitution will help pave the way for national elections, in March.

He urged participants at the conference to ‘shame our detractors who say Zimbabweans cannot solve their problems without violence.’

The previous all-stakeholders conference on constitutional reform was abandoned in 2009 after violent disruptions by ZANU PF militants, led by war vets leader Joseph Chinotimba.

‘There will certainly be elections in March next year, hatinyangire vanhu (We will not ambush people). Even when we go for elections our campaigns must be clean,’ Mugabe.

Tsvangirai, in his address, said the success of the conference will mean the remaining stages of creating a new constitution will be completed successfully, starting with the debate in Parliament right through to the referendum.

‘In all this, I would like Zimbabweans to be tolerant of each other’s views and to work towards the good of the nation. We should remember that the important national process of constitution-making is about the future of our country.

‘We do not want a repeat of the scenes of the first All Stakeholders Conference. We have certainly matured politically and I hope that this maturity will be exhibited during this conference. It is important to see beyond our differences to build a better Zimbabwe for all,’ he said.

But the country’s Civil Society Organizations pointed out that Zimbabwe won’t be ready for elections until fundamental democratic reforms are implemented.

Macdonald Lewanika, the director for the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition, said reforms should be instituted first for a free and fair election that allows for the peaceful transfer of state power to a democratically elected government.

The last elections held in 2008 were roundly condemned by the international community after violence claimed the lives of over 500 supporters of Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s MDC party. Tens of thousands of people were tortured and hundreds of thousands were displaced.