Negotiators for the three parties in Zimbabwe's troubled national unity government failed this week to agree on whether and how to overhaul the national security apparatus as a critical component of the road map to the next elections they are drawing up.
Sources close to the discussions said South African President Jacob Zuma is expected to step in soon to break the deadlock over how to ensure the army, police and intelligence services do not interfere in the elections as they have often been accused of doing.
The sources said both formations of the former opposition Movement for Democratic Change said the chiefs of the military branches and the police to publicly declare that they will respect the constitution and election outcomes.
ZANU-PF negotiators responded that this would only drag security officials into politics - though several top military officers and Police Commissioner Augustine Chihuri have for much of the past decade been publicly declaring that they would not recognize Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai as president if he were to be elected.
In 2000, General Vitalis Zvinavashe, now deceased, vowed that the country's security organizations would only support political leaders who "pursue Zimbabwean values, traditions [and] beliefs for which thousands of lives were lost in pursuit of Zimbabwe's hard-won independence, sovereignty, territorial integrity and national interest."
He continued: "We will, therefore, not accept, let alone support or salute anyone with a different agenda that threatens (the) very existence of our sovereignty, our country and our people." Zvinavashe made those comments on national television flanked by Air Marshal Perence Shiri and Prison Chief Paradzai Zimhondi.
Defense Minister Emmerson Mnangagwa made similar remarks this year.
The two MDC formations also wanted the Public Order and Security Act to be amended along with legislation governing the Central Intelligence Organization.
But ZANU-PF would not discuss this or a proposal to remove army officers allegedly deployed in all provinces to promote the re-election of President Robert Mugabe.
But the unity parties noted progress on electoral reforms and the constitution. The three unity government principals have been given the current draft of the road map, which has also gone to President Zuma as mediator in Harare for the Southern African Development Community, which is pressing the negotiators for progress.
Mr. Zuma’s facilitators are expected in Harare on May 5 to try to broaden agreement ahead of the SADC summit on Zimbabwe May 20 in Namibia.
Retired Zimbabwe Army Colonel Martin Rupiya, Director of the African Public Policy and Research Institute, told VOA reporter Blessing Zulu that ZANU-PF's over-reliance on the military makes it difficult for the former ruling party to accept reform
Elsewhere, prospects of elections this year as demanded by Mr. Mugabe and ZANU-PF looked more remote following indications by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission that it cannot afford to revise the voter roll, or address other important tasks at hand. It said its own staff needs training and major reforms are required before elections.
Electoral Commission Chairman Simpson Mutambanengwe said his panel will start work on the voters roll and other logistical projects when funds are available.
Mutambanengwe told VOA Studio 7 reporter Ntungamili Nkomo that the Referendum Act also needs revision as it still says the registrar general presides over elections though that mandate was shifted by the constitutional amendment creating his panel.
Political analyst Bhekilizwe Ndlovu commented that he does not think ZANU-PF wants elections any time soon despite the demands from President Mugabe.