PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe risks regional isolation if he resists pressure from the Southern African Development Community (SADC) to institute requisite reforms ahead of next year's polls.
SADC leaders, meeting in Tanzania at a weekend summit to discuss the region's trouble spots, urged the political stakeholders in Zimbabwe to fully implement the Global Political Agreement (GPA) before holding fresh elections after an inconclusive presidential poll in June 2008.
The summit further urged President Mugabe, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara and Welshman Ncube to finalise the constitution-making process.
ZANU-PF and the two formations of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) are deadlocked over contentious issues in the draft constitution produced by the Parliamentary Constitution Select Committee (COPAC) although an executive committee drawn from the three parties has been set-up to try and find common ground on the sticky issues.
The MDCs accuse ZANU-PF of being directly responsible for the slow implementation of the GPA as well as being unwilling to implement agreed reforms.
Addressing the ZANU-PF people's conference in Gweru last week, President Mugabe threatened to dissolve Parliament and proceed to call for elections if a three-member Cabinet committee set up to unlock the impasse failed to resolve the contentious issues by the end of this month.
The ZANU-PF leader added that if the new constitution was not ready by the end of this year, the country would revert to the compromise Lancaster House Constitution under which fresh harmonised polls would be held in March next year without fail.
But regional diplomatic sources yesterday said SADC and the African Union (AU), the guarantors of the power-sharing pact, would continue to apply pressure on President Mugabe and ZANU-PF "to listen to the voice of reason" and adhere to the latest regional resolution.
South African President Jacob Zuma, the SADC appointed mediator in the Zimbabwe crisis, who last Friday briefed the regional grouping on his facilitation in Harare, is expected to raise the issue at next month's AU annual summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
While the ZANU-PF conference resolved that elections be held in March next year without fail, regional diplomats said President Mugabe should at least ensure that minimum conditions needed to hold free and fair elections were in place as per SADC guidelines.
There is concern in the region that reforms agreed under the GPA have not been implemented nearly four years after the consummation of the power-sharing pact.
President Mugabe's partners in the GPA are pushing for wide-sweeping security sector reforms, something the ZANU-PF leader has publicly stated is tantamount to effecting regime change.
The MDCs accuse the state security agents, including the military and police, of being complicit in the political violence that charcterised the 2008 presidential elections, and further want the role of state security agents in the next elections clarified.
While the disputed Broadcasting Authority of Zimba-bwe (BAZ) has controversially awarded two independent broadcasting licences to companies said to have links with ZANU-PF, the MDC formations want BAZ re-constituted as agreed by the principals in the GPA in 2011.
They also want the State-owned Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation, which is seen as a mouth-piece of ZANU-PF, to be transformed into a truly public broadcaster that serves every citizen irrespective of their political affiliation and there are also calls for the establishment of community radio and television stations.
On its part, ZANU-PF has demanded the unconditional removal of sanctions and the disbanding of foreign-based radio stations broadcasting into Zimbabwe from the United States and the United Kingdom.
ZANU-PF's partners in the GPA have also raised concerns over the independence of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission they claim is staffed with officers from the military and the Office of the Registrar-General.
There are allegations the country's voters' roll is shambolic as it still comprises names of dead people.
The SADC resolution on the need for Zimbabwe's political gladiators to fully implement the GPA ahead of polls has received rave views from the country's civil society organisations that of late have been on a lobbying crusade around the region, push- ing SADC leaders to ensure the country held free and fair polls.
Gladys Hlatywayo, the executive director of the Zimbabwe Civic Education Trust, said the resolutions were highly commendable and in line with what civil society has been lobbying for in the region.
"The reason why the GPA came into being was because of a disputed election hence it's only logical to ensure that all is in place before the next election to avoid yet another discredited election. Without reforms, it is clear that we are heading towards disaster, a sham election," said Hlatywayo.
She added that it was clear that SADC would not support an election that is rashed without full implementation of the GPA.
But Hlatywayo was quick to add that it was very likely that ZANU-PF would try to dig in and even force an election in the absence of reforms, judging from pronouncements emanating from the party's just-ended conference held last week in Gweru.
"ZANU-PF might want to appear as renegades who do not play by the book, but they will not enjoy the endorsement of SADC.
"I think they will emerge weaker and exposed in that scenario.
"After all, SADC has been acting as a buffer protecting ZANU-PF from missiles from the rest of the world. They will have no one to turn to and their Pan African rhetoric will crumble," she said.
Phillian Zamchiya, the regional coordinator of the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition, said President Mugabe risked isolation if he defies SADC's latest resolution on Zimbabwe.
"I am confident that SADC will be able to apply pressure to Presi-dent Mugabe to implement the necessary reforms.
"I think already he is becoming isolated and SADC is losing patience with (President) Mugabe and ZANU-PF yet SADC is their last line of defence," said Zamchiya.