Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe and opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai signed a power-sharing deal on September 15, agreeing to form a unity government to end months of political turmoil.
But the deal is stalled over disputes about how to divide control of the most powerful cabinet posts, particularly the home affairs ministry, which oversees the police.
“We believe South Africa and the region cannot be held to ransom by parties who are failing to reach agreement on the allocation of cabinet posts,” government spokesman Themba Maseko told reporters in Pretoria.
“This is becoming a matter of extreme concern for us and we will be taking quite a hard stance to make sure that agreement is reached,” he said.
“The failure of the parties to agree is something that is becoming a major political hindrance to the stability that we desire” in southern Africa, Maseko said.
South Africa will host an emergency summit of the 15-nation Southern African Development Community (SADC) on Sunday in a bid to salvage the unity accord.
“It’s government’s view that the heads of state must now take urgent steps to make sure political solutions are found,” Maseko added.
He would not say what steps regional leaders were being urged to take, but said South Africa would be “making proposals on how we think the situation should be expedited.”
“We believe the heads of state have played a key role in making sure that the Zimbabwean problem is seen as an African problem with African solutions being required,” Maseko said.
“Now the heads of state are being tested to see if they can actually deliver a political solution to Zimbabwe’s problems,” he added.
Tsvangirai won a first round presidential election in March but pulled out of a June run-off, accusing the Mugabe’s regime of orchestrating a deadly campaign of political violence.
Amnesty International released a report last week that found a total of 180 people had been killed and about 9,000 injured in political violence since March, most of them MDC supporters.
SADC has held numerous meetings aimed at pressing the rivals into a deal, and tasked former South African president Thabo Mbeki with mediating in the crisis.
He brokered the power-sharing deal, and resumed his mediation last month in a bid to resolve their dispute over forming a cabinet.
So far SADC has failed to take a strong, unified stand on Zimbabwe, despite the country’s stunning economic collapse that has sent waves of migrants across its borders in search of work.
SADC’s security arm has held two summits over the last three weeks that failed to resolve the impasse.
After the last meeting in Harare, Mugabe and Tsvangirai agreed to take their dispute before an emergency summit of the entire region.
Botswana has already called for holding new elections in Zimbabwe, a proposal angrily dismissed by Harare.
Many leaders in the bloc are seen as supporters of Mugabe, or are reluctant to speak out against the liberation hero who has led his country since independence from Britain in 1980.
The country is buckling under inflation which has surged to 213 million percent, with shortages of key foodstuffs like sugar and cooking oil plaguing the former regional breadbasket.