Davos-Klosters - Zimbabwe will hold elections by July, President Emmerson Mnangagwa said in Davos, Switzerland, on Wednesday.
During an interview session at the World Economic Forum (WEF), Mnangagwa was asked whether elections would take place by a reported September deadline.
He replied: "I don't know who gave you the month of September, in my own view, we want to consolidate and deepen constitutionalism in Zimbabwe. And in terms of our current Constitution every five years we are required to submit ourselves to seek a new mandate."
He said the five-year term ends in July, but that the constitution allows for elections to be held up to six months before the last date in July.
Mnangagwa said that he was likely to sign a proclamation for elections by mid-February, so: "I believe that elections will not be in July, but they will be earlier than July."
"This time around, Zimbabwe is open and transparent,"he added. "We want to have free, fair, and credible elections, free of violence."
Questioned whether he would allow observer missions from the likes of the European Union (EU) in, he answered: "If you have that criteria, why would you want to deny international observers coming to our country?
"Obviously, like in the past, [Southern African Development Community] SADC, whether it is political parties in the SADC, government or Parliament, it is automatic they come. This is the understanding we have between ourselves. The same with the continental body the AU, they can observe.
"But this time I have gone further and said the EU, if they want to observe, I will welcome them. Other nations outside the EU who want to observe our elections, let them apply."
Mnangagwa at times bristled at the line of questioning, at one point responding to the interviewer asking whether international observer missions will have free and unfettered access, "will they be able to wherever they want and look at wherever they want", by saying: "I'm not an English expert but I thought when you say it will be transparent it means that they have access. Unless transparent means something different, but this is how I understand it, that we are going to have transparent elections that are free and fair."
Mnangagwa took over as Zimbabwe head of state after the ousting of long-time Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe in November.
The 93-year-old Mugabe, who had been at the helm for 37 years, resigned under pressure from his ZANU PF party, the army and the public.
African News Agency/ANA