Pretoria is piling pressure on President Robert Mugabe and Zanu-PF to institute more democratic reforms ahead of elections expected to be called this year.
South African president Jacob Zuma is the Southern African Development Community (SADC) appointed mediator in Zimbabwe. Mr. Mugabe has vowed that he will proclaim election dates this week despite protests from his coalition partner, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and SADC.
But in an interview with News24 on Tuesday, South African Deputy Foreign Minister Ebrahim Ebrahim, appearing to support Mr. Mugabe's rivals called for further reforms ahead of the elections.
"I think the opposition has a legitimate argument to say there should be proper progression for the election," he said.
"There have to be certain reforms that need to be speeded up. If Zanu PF says they [polls] should be held in June or July, that is probably playing politics. All parties should agree that the time is ripe for an election."
Zanu-PF strategist and politburo member Jonathan Moyo dismissed as “outrageous and offensive” Ibrahim’s remarks saying they risked undermining President Zuma's personal role as the facilitator of SADC's engagement in Zimbabwe.
Ibrahim also said South Africa was willing to assist Harare with funds to run this year’s elections.
Citing previous electoral violence in Zimbabwe, Ebrahim said a regional election monitoring group should be deployed ahead of the polls. Zimbabwe's presidential election run off was aborted in 2008 after more than 150 opposition supporters were allegedly murdered in election related violence.
Mr. Zuma’s international relations advisor, Lindiwe Zulu, also told VOA that the South African president wants Zimbabwe’s six negoatiators to come up with a revised election roadmap dealing with outstanding global political agreement issues. The six are drawn from the three partys in the coalition government.
Sources in Harare said the negotiators will meet Thursday to discuss the election roadmap.
Zanu-PF insists there won’t be any futher reforms but the two MDC formations want media and security sector reforms, among others.
Political analyst Briggs Bomba of Trust Africa told VOA that the SADC region will not accept a flawed election in Zimbabwe.