About 100 people were arrested on Monday in Zimbabwe as they tried to march toward the hotel where African leaders are holding talks in an attempt to rescue a troubled power-sharing deal, activists said.

About 1000 students and activists from the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition, an umbrella body of rights organisations, marched from downtown Harare toward the Rainbow Towers hotel, said the group’s spokesman Thabani Moyo.

But police blocked the protesters’ march about 300 metres from the hotel, Moyo said.

"The police fired teargas cannisters and chased away students," Moyo said, adding that about 50 people were arrested and taken to Harare’s central police station.

Police baton-charged the students, who were calling for the talks on the formation of a unity government to be expedited so that schooling, which has come to a halt amidst a severe economic crisis, can resume.

South African President Kgalema Motlanthe, his predecessor Thabo Mbeki, who is mediating in Zimbabwe, and Swaziland’s King Mswati III went into talks Monday with Robert Mugabe and prime minister-designate Morgan Tsvangirai on how to avert the collapse of their September agreement to form a unity government.

Six weeks after agreeing to share power, Mugabe and Tsvangirai are at loggerheads about which ministries should go to which party.

Arthur Mutambara, leader of a minority faction of Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), is also involved in the talks.

The MDC accuses Mugabe of keeping all the most important ministries for his Zanu-PF. The dispute is riveted on control of the home affairs ministry, which the MDC is demanding, but Zanu-PF is reluctant to relinquish.

The power-sharing deal is seen by many as the only way of rescuing Zimbabwe from economic meltdown. The once-prosperous nation is experiencing acute shortages of all essentials, including fuel, electricity, cash, food and drugs.

Inflation officially stands at more than 200-million percent, though independent analysts put it at more than one billion per cent. – Sapa-dpa