HARARE-- Holding free, fair and credible elections this year is a crucial step for Zimbabwe to regain full re-integration with the international community, as the country has already started receiving positive attention following President Emmerson Mnangagwa's repeated promises to organize a fair plebiscite, says a leading opposition figure.

President Mnangagwa, since assuming office in November last year, has promised to organize a free, fair and credible election and to buttress that, has promised to invite election observers from the United Nations and the European Union, who previously have been denied entry to previous Zimbabwean polls.

A founding member of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) member and Member of Parliament for Bulawayo South, Eddie Cross, told Parliament Tuesday that the President's promise was refreshing and deserved support.

I respect him (President Mnangagwa) for that enormously and you can see the reaction of the international community already. The flights from Harare to Johannesburg are full, if you have to book a seat on a plane you have to book two or three days in advance," he noted.

The American Aambassador says he cannot handle the enquiries that he is receiving from the United States. I personally have been involved in the negotiation of contracts worth nearly 3.0 billion US dollars in the last two months.

"This is a sign that the international community is responding to something. What they are responding to is the commitment by this government to a free and fair election."

Cross said he was optimistic the new government would deliver on its pledge. He said Zimbabwe could not afford to blow the renewed goodwill it was currently receiving.

Zimbabwe has been in isolation for nearly 17 years. We have been subjected to restrictions for the same period of time and the principal motivation of the international community in maintaining these restrictions has been the fact that they have, year after year, election after election, declared that our elections were not free and fair for one reason or the other and I think that we have to simply recognize that we cannot put our economy back on its feet if we do not have a legitimate election.

The United States has said it would maintain sanctions on Zimbabwe until a free, fair and credible election is held. Western countries have also isolated Zimbabwe due to differences over the re-distribution of land to the black majority.

The differences led to, among other things, a massive decline in foreign direct investment from those countries opposed to the land reform programme. In a show of confidence in the new government and its ideas, countries which were previously hostile, including Britain, have sent envoys to Harare in a bid to mend relations.