Supposed power-sharing talks between Zimbabwe’s president Robert Mugabe and rival Morgan Tsvangirai remained mired in deadlock today.
Both sides had indicated that today would make or break the deal seen as vital to ending an economic crisis that has half the population in need of food aid.
South Africa’s President Kgalema Motlanthe and former president and mediator Thabo Mbeki, Mozambique’s President Armando Guebuza and other leaders of the Southern African Development Community spent all day with Mugabe and Mr Tsvangirai and Arthur Mutambara, head of a smaller opposition faction.
The power-sharing deal was signed in September but stalled by disagreements over Cabinet posts.
The deadlock has left the government paralysed amid a spiralling economic crisis, with the central bank last week introducing a 100 trillion Zimbabwe dollar note to keep up with rocketing inflation.
The health, water and education systems have collapsed, and most major goods are in short supply.
More than five million Zimbabweans are likely to need food aid this year, and a cholera epidemic has killed more than 2,200 people and infected over 42,000.
The September 15 power-sharing deal calls for 84-year-old Mugabe to remain president, Mr Tsvangirai to become prime minister and for Cabinet posts to be equitably shared.
Mr Mugabe has tried to keep all important portfolios for his party. But Tsvangirai has said he will not be “bulldozed” into joining a lopsided government, after winning first-round presidential elections in March but pulling out of the runoff because of violence against his supporters.