With Harare and Pretoria trading barbs over recent resolutions by the Southern African Development Community calling for an end to rising political violence in Zimbabwe, the parties in Zimbabwe's national unity government have started meeting to discuss the path to the next round of national elections and the date for them.
Political sources said the meeting on Monday was recommended by the SADC organ on politics, defense and security at the conclusion of its session in Zambia last week. The regional organization is a guarantor with the African Union of the 2008 Global Political Agreement for power sharing that resolved a post-election impasse.
The sources said negotiators from President Robert Mugabe's ZANU-PF party and both formations of the Movement for Democratic Change would meet again next Monday.
Sources told VOA the parties were divided on the date for the next elections: ZANU-PF insisted on a ballot this year while the two MDC formations preferred a 2012 vote.
ZANU-PF spokesman Rugare Gumbo said though that while his party favors a vote this year, it will make a final determination after considering negotiators' recommendations.
But political analyst Msekiwa Makwanya said Zimbabwe is not ready for elections.
Meanwhile, taking exception to criticism of South African President Jacob Zuma by state media and President Mugabe himself, Pretoria issued a more direct statement Tuesday reiterating the SADC demands for an end to political violence in Zimbabwe.
It also called for the implementation of democratic reforms ahead of the next election.
South African International Relations Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane told reporters Pretoria is disturbed by the resurgence of violence in Zimbabwe and wants it curbed.
Commenting, political analyst Brilliant Mhlanga said the direct response by Pretoria to attacks on Mr. Zuma was expected given the tenor of comments from Harare.
Mr. Mugabe meanwhile has insisted elections must be held this year, dismissing reports of violence which he says are manufactured by the MDC in a bid to stave off the vote.
But Deputy Spokesperson Thabitha Khumalo of the MDC formation led by Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai said the evidence of violence is overwhelming.
Echoing Khumalo’s, spokesman Nhlanhla Dube of the MDC led by Welshman Ncube. said elections should not be held in the current volatile political environment.