Zuma urges quick solution to Zimbabwe

WASHINGTON – South Africa's African National Congress leader Jacob Zuma urged Zimbabwe's politicians on Tuesday to work harder to end a political impasse over the distribution of cabinet posts.

Speaking after a meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice at the State Department, Zuma said Zimbabwe’s political crisis was a key topic in their first meeting.

"We share the same views that a quicker solution to Zimbabwe is desirable for the sake of the Zimbabwean people and their country," said Zuma, who as leader of the ANC is expected to be the next South African president after 2009 elections.

"We also agreed that Zimbabwean leaders should be urged to complete the package which is already on the table so that it is implemented for the sake of the Zimbabwean people," he said.

Zuma also discussed Zimbabwe and other issues with President George W. Bush’s national security adviser Stephen Hadley in meetings at the White House.

On Monday, the United States threatened to impose new sanctions against Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe and his supporters if he reneges on a Sept. 15 power-sharing deal with the country’s opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai.

Zuma said Rice told him current U.S. sanctions would stay in place until the political situation was resolved. Neither side can agree on the allocation of cabinet posts, particularly for Zimbabwe’s home affairs and finance ministries.

The United States has been urging Zimbabwe’s neighbors, including South Africa and the regional grouping South African Development Community, to put more pressure on veteran president Mugabe to end a political stalemate there.

Zuma said South Africa strongly supported SADC’s efforts and the African National Congress was engaging both Mugabe’s ZANU-PF party as well as the opposition Movement for Democratic Change.

"We are urging both parties, as the ANC, to find a solution," he said.

Zuma said he also discussed with Rice the political situation in South Africa, where ex-defense minister Mosiuoa "Terror" Lekota announced a breakaway party would be launched, splitting the ANC and challenging its years of dominance.

Asked whether he expected the ANC to split, Zuma said: "I don’t know. You must listen to Terror Lekota and what he says. The ANC has spoken on this matter and I think we are watching this situation as it develops."

"I do not want to speculate on these matters … I do not have inside information on that," he added.

The ANC forced President Thabo Mbeki to step down last month at the climax of a power struggle between him and Zuma, a move that prompted Lekota to resign and threaten to form a breakaway party.

Pressed on whether he expected to be the next president of South Africa, Zuma replied: "That is in the hands of the ANC."