Zuma says summit must "force" Zimbabwe deal

CAPE TOWN, (Reuters) – Southern African leaders must "force" Zimbabwe's sparring parties to break the deadlock over a power-sharing deal at a summit this weekend, South Africa's ANC leader Jacob Zuma said on Friday.

"As far as I’m concerned SADC must make those Zimbabweans reach an agreement," Zuma told Reuters after a speech to the Cape Town Press Club. "They must force them."

The 15-Nation SADC (Southern African Development Community) is due to meet in Johannesburg on Sunday to try and solve an impasse between President Robert Mugabe and opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai over allocating cabinet posts under a September power-sharing deal.

"I believe that the Zimbabwean matter does not end within the borders of Zimbabwe, it impacts on all of us and for that reason we must force them to stop making us feel the impact," Zuma, leader of the ruling African National Congress, said.

South Africa’s government said on Thursday it would take a tough stand at the summit over Zimbabwe. This was a sharp change from the style of former President Thabo Mbeki, whose softly-softly approach as official southern African mediator has been criticised as ineffective.

Zimbabwe’s economic crisis has forced millions of its citizens to flee the country, with an estimated three million Zimbabweans in neighbouring South Africa alone.

Establishing a unity government is seen as critical to reversing economic meltdown in the southern African nation where inflation is officially 231 million percent. Even under government price controls, the cost of bread is doubling every week.

Zimbabweans are struggling to survive amid widespread shortages of meat, milk and other basic commodities as a result of the collapse of the agricultural sector. The country is dependent on food handouts and malnutrition is on the rise.

Tsvangirai, who would become prime minister under the power-sharing deal, has accused Mugabe’s ruling ZANU-PF of trying to seize the lion’s share of important ministries in order to relegate the MDC to the role of junior partner.