Zim elections must take place - Obama

The US president says while Zimbabwe is slowly restoring its ailing economy, elections must take place.

US President Barack Obama speaks during his Town Hall with Young African Leaders at the University of Johannesburg's Soweto campus on June 29, 2013. Picture: Christa van der Walt/EWN.

CAPE TOWN - United States President Barack Obama on Sunday stressed that Zimbabwe may only move forward if it holds free and fair elections.

Obama concluded his two-day visit of South Africa with a moving speech at the University of Cape Town on Sunday night.

He said that while Zimbabwe has a new constitution and is slowly restoring its ailing economy, elections must take place.

"[Elections must take place] so that Zimbabweans can determine their future without fear of intimidation and retribution. After elections there must be respect for the universal rights upon which democracy depends."

Obama also warned that Africa will only fulfil its potential with leaders who serve their people, not tyrants who enrich themselves.

"Governments that respect the rights of their citizens and abide by the rule of law do better, grow faster and draw more investment than those who don't. That's just a fact."

Zimbabwe's state media has accused Obama of poking his nose into Zimbabwe's affairs by backing the Movement for Democratic Change's (MDC) calls for some reforms before the polls.

Meanwhile, Zimbabwe's Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa told state media on Sunday that President Robert Mugabe was now ruling the country by decree following the dissolution of parliament this week.

Mugabe wants to hold elections on 31 July but the opposition is backing attempts to delay the polls to allow for key reforms.

The official Sunday Mail said that the Zimbabwean president can now make laws on his own.

Chinamasa said this was the first time since independence that Zimbabwe has been ruled by decree.

He said this clearly showed that Zimbabwe needed early elections.

A court is only due to hear on Thursday applications to delay the polls from 31 July.

MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai wants security and media reforms first.