The South African government is downplaying talk of elections in Zimbabwe in 2011, saying it will insist that the three principals in the Harare unity government implement a roadmap to elections as mandated by the Southern African Development Community, a guarantor of power sharing with the African Union.
Lindiwe Zulu, a top aide to President Jacob Zuma of South Africa, SADC's mediator in Harare, said Friday that Pretoria will not bless an election marred by violence and intimidation.
She said Mr. Zuma will discuss the election roadmap with the three principals - President Robert Mugabe, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara, respectively head of the long-ruling ZANU-PF and rival formations of the Movement for Democratic Change.
A roadmap has to be established first, that will involve [2008 Global Political Agreement] principals, SADC and relevant people to ensure that any elections that will be held will be free and fair," Zulu said.
"President Zuma is of the view that if elections should be done there should be no violence, no intimidation and there should be a free media environment,” she said.
There have also been calls from a number of directions for the reform of repressive laws such as the Public Order and Security Act and the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act which critics say curtail freedom of association and assembly in the case of POSA, and restrict the media, in the case of AIPPA.
SADC leaders are increasingly concerned at the deteriorating political climate in Harare and want Mr. Zuma to be firm with Mr. Mugabe, saying the crisis stands to have a negative impact on the entire region, sources say.
Mr. Mugabe recently declared that has relations in the unity government have deteriorated so badly that the power-sharing arrangement must end by June of next year, triggering a new round of elections.
But talk of elections has escalated tensions in the country with reports of liberation war veterans, soldiers and ZANU-PF youth militia terrorizing rural inhabitants in Manicaland and Masvingo provinces.
Both MDC formations welcomed Pretoria's call for an election roadmap.
ZANU-PF spokesman Rugare Gumbo referred all questions to Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa, chief negotiator for the party in power-sharing talks since 2008. But Chinamasa was not immediately available.
Zulu said Pretoria has not been officially informed on the tension in Harare, but is closely following developments.