Foreign ministers of the Southern African Development Community were to open talks in Luanda, Angola, on Tuesday, while the parties in Zimbabwe's fractious unity government remained deeply divided over key issues, particularly the composition of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission and demands for reform of the security establishment.
Negotiators for President Robert Mugabe's ZANU-PF and both formations of the former opposition Movement for Democratic Change met on the weekend in Pretoria with the facilitation team of South African President Jacob Zuma in a bid to iron out some issues ahead of the summit. But sources said they emerged more divided than ever.
ZANU-PF negotiators told Mr. Zuma’s team of facilitators that any efforts by SADC or other outsiders to press the party for reform of Zimbabwe's military and police would violate Zimbabwean sovereignty, and therefore be unacceptable.
They called for a near-term election and argued that reconstitution of the electoral body as the MDC formations demanded was not possible. They said the MDC had participated in selecting members and endorsed the commission when it was initially formed.
The MDC's objections have to do with the commission's permanent staff, which is much the same as it was in 2008 when election results were long withheld.
Energy Minister Elton Mangoma, negotiator for the MDC wing headed by Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, told VOA Studio 7 reporter Sandra Nyaira that the current impasse requires the direct intervention of Mr. Zuma, rather than through his facilitators.
"Some of these issues require the attention of [Mr. Zuma] himself, otherwise we will continue going in circles," Mangoma said. "There is no point going into an election whose outcome will be challenged."
National Healing Minister Moses Mzila Ndlovu, negotiating for the MDC formation led by Industry Minister Welshman Ncube, said that without the security sector reforms the two MDC wings are demanding, free and fair elections will not be possible.
But ZANU-PF spokesman Rugare Gumbo said reform of the security sector is not in the cards, adding that the lifting of Western sanctions should be the priority.
Commenting on the forthcoming summit, Bob Libert Muchabaiwa of the SADC Council of Non-Governmental Organizations said regional civic groups hope SADC will maintain the spirit of the so-called Livingstone troika meeting in April that took a firm stand on key issues including human rights and the lagging pace of reform in Zimbabwe.