South African President Jacob Zuma has widened his consultation in drafting an election road map for Zimbabwe, drawing in fellow Southern African Development Community leaders in a move seen as intended to press for faster reform in Harare.
Sources said Mr. Zuma has already opened talks with the three principals in the Harare unity government - President Robert Mugabe, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara - on the way forward.
Southern African diplomatic sources told VOA that they do not want a repeat of the 2008 elections which were deeply marred by violence and alleged vote rigging.
They said the regional leadership is particularly concerned in light of developments in Ivory Coast where incumbent Laurent Gbagbo has refused to step down after losing a presidential election, and want a Zimbabwe road map with a clear exit strategy.
The regional diplomats said Mr. Zuma is seeking the support of his counterparts in the region, who are said to have become exasperated by the bickering in Harare.
SADC and Southern African sources said the roadmap would be modelled along the lines of the regional bloc’s Mauritius principles and guidelines governing elections.
The so-called 2004 Grand Baie Guidelines call for the full participation of citizens in the political process, freedom of association, political tolerance and equal opportunity for all political parties to access state-controlled media.
Zuma international relations advisor Lindiwe Zulu told VOA Studio 7 reporter Blessing Zulu that Zimbabweans themselves must also own the electoral process.
Zimbabwe Election Support Network Chairman Tinoziva Bere said Mr. Zuma is on the right track.
Some political analysts caution however that whatever the intentions of SADC leaders, the grouping lacks a mechanism to enforce its principles if they are violated, unlike the Economic Community of West Africa which has been known to intervene forcefully.
But Bere said SADC needs no military force to compel compliance as mere denunciation of a rigged election and shunning its winner is enough to produce results.
Elsewhere, Zimbabwean Minister of Parliamentary and Constitutional Affairs Eric Matinenga said he will not be rushed into turning out a constitution that is not all it should be simply because some are intent on holding elections this year.
Matinenga, a member of the Movement for Democratic Change formation of Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, told reporter Jonga Kandemiiri there is no way the country can short-cut making a proper constitution for the sake of holding early elections.
He said work on the new constitution will resume next week.