Zimbabwe's deepening post-election crisis has put regional and Western leaders in a quandary as events suggest President Robert Mugabe will resist stepping down even if the results of the March 29 presidential election should show he was defeated.
Even top African officials face frustration in their efforts to initiate dialogue: European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana disclosed on Tuesday that Jakaya Kikwete, Tanzania's president, was unable to reach Mr. Mugabe to discuss the crisis.
South African President Thabo Mbeki, who mediated between the ruling party and the opposition from March 2007 to January of this year on behalf of the Southern African Development Community until January, also finds himself in a difficult position.
Mr. Mbeki has often been criticized for failing to press Mr. Mugabe harder - a case in point being Mr. Mugabe's refusal to make key concessions to the crisis resolution process Mr. Mbeki was leading, effectively sinking the process in January.
But sources in South Africa's ruling African National Congress party say some of its leaders - including Mr. Mbeki - would be more comfortable with a government of national unity in Zimbabwe that did not marginalize Mr. Mugabe's ZANU-PF.
Mondli Makhanya, editor of South Africa's Sunday Times newspaper told Australian television that Pretoria fears a defeated ZANU-PF could destabilize the region through its supporters among Zimbabwe's military, war veterans and its own party militia.
Yet ZANU-PF itself is divided on participating in a government of national unity. Party chairman John Nkomo and administration secretary Didymus Mutasa said they would consider the idea. But ZANU-PF Legal Secretary Patrick Chinamasa, who lost his parliamentary seat in the recent elections, rejected the proposition outright.
Foreign Affairs Secretary Eliphas Mukonoweshuro of the Movement for Democratic Change formation of Morgan Tsvangirai (whose party maintains that he was elected president on March 29), told reporter Blessing Zulu of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that the opposition also rejects the idea of a government of national unity.
Political analyst Peter Kagwanja, director of Democracy and Governance research at the Human Sciences Research Council in Pretoria, commented that a government of national unity is consistent with South Africa’s policy on Zimbabwe.
Spokesman Patrick Craven of the Congress of South African Trade Unions, part of South Africa’s ruling triumvirate along with the South African Communist Party, says COSATU will resist the idea of a Zimbabwean government of national unity.
He said COSATU officials met Tuesday with delegates of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions and agreed that the results of Zimbabwe's presidential election must be released before any discussion of a national unity government can begin.