Zimbabwe’s President Emmerson Mnangagwa announced on Wednesday “transparent” elections will take place in the country before July.
“Next month I will be able to make a proclamation of elections, so I believe that elections will not be in July, they will be earlier than July,” he said.
Mnangagwa, 75, became Zimbabwe’s president in November after the military ousted Robert Mugabe, 93, who ruled for 37 years.
The vote will be Mnangagwa’s first test of legitimacy since assuming the role. He promised to respect the results of the election.
“We want to have free, fair, credible elections, free of violence,” he said, adding international election observers would be welcome.
“The European Union … I would welcome them. If we lose elections that’s it. Whichever party wins the election will proceed to take the reins of power.”
He issued billions of dollars of domestic debt to pay for a large civil service that was used as a system of patronage.
Zimbabwe is rich in gold, platinum, and other minerals, but has one of the highest unemployment rates in the world.
Economic issues were made worse after Mugabe seized thousands of commercial farms owned by whites.
“We don’t want to think along racial lines, that is the philosophy of the past. Farmers are farmers,” Mnangagwa said after inviting commercial farmers to return to Zimbabwe.
Mnangagwa also said members of the Mugabe government accused of corruption have not received immunity.
Mugabe has received a “lucrative package” including a salary, allowances, and first-class travel in exchange for his departure, he admitted.
“We will do everything to allow the [Mugabe] family to live in peace and undisturbed,” said Mnangagwa.