Democratic and constitutional reforms are high on the agenda for regional leaders meeting in Zimbabwe.
The Southern African Development Community called on Zimbabwe's coalition government to work on a new constitution before new elections can be held. They have also asked for it to adhere to the terms of the power sharing deal agreed to by the group in 2009, according to a statement released by the group on Saturday.
Acting as chief mediator, South African President Jacob Zuma will help set an election time-frame, the group said in the statement.
Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai were also at the summit in the Angolan capital, Luanda.
Mugabe signalled his intention to call elections this year to end the trouble with the current coalition government.
"It appears the new push would be for elections in March, 2013," said Dewa Mavihinga, coordinator for an alliance of Zimbabwe Democracy Group. Mugabe's ZANU-PF party conceded that holding polls in 2012 wasn't possible, he said. Also quoting regional leaders, the newspaper, controlled by Mugabe loyalists, said polls would be held in the next 12 months.
The task of re-writing the country's constitution is behind schedule, as in-fighting besets the parliamentary panel responsible for it.
Independent election monitoring groups say voter registrars are in need of an overhaul to remove voters who have passed away or those appearing on the list in more than one district.
In Zimbabwe last week, United Nations Human Rights Commission Navi Pillay cautioned the international community that without reforms it was likely a repeat of widespread violence and killings during the 2008 elections that lead to the coalition government formation would occur again.
"Only free and fair democratic elections would be recognized internationally and by the region," she said.
jlw/mz (AP, Reuters)