Jacob Zuma: 'They (the elders) believe the situation is very bad'
The leader of South Africa's ruling party Jacob Zuma says a solution to the crisis in Zimbabwe is urgently needed.
The situation was beyond "wait and see", Mr Zuma said in Johannesburg. "We have got to act and act now."
Mr Zuma spoke after meeting a group of world leaders, known as the Elders, who have been refused visas for Zimbabwe.
One of that group, former US President Jimmy Carter, told reporters "the crisis in Zimbabwe is much worse than anything we have imagined".
Meanwhile, Zimbabwe's rival political leaders are due to meet on Tuesday to salvage a power-sharing deal.
South African President Kgalema Motlanthe said Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe and opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai would hold talks in South Africa.
"The situation has gone [beyond] where we could say 'wait and see'," said Mr Zuma, the president of the African National Congress.
It is now an urgent matter, people are dying
Jacob Zuma ANC leader
"We are pleading for the leadership [of the ruling party and opposition] for the sake of the people to find a solution that would help them move forward."
Mr Zuma said the ANC would be sending a delegation to Zimbabwe to push for a political solution to the crisis.
Mr Mugabe's Zanu-PF and the opposition Movement of Democratic Change (MDC) are in a power-sharing stand-off following disputed presidential elections earlier this year.
They have agreed to form a government of national unity but been unable to agree on who should fill key ministries.
"Let us find a way to implement the agreement for the sake of Zimbabweans," Mr Zuma said. "We cannot stay with the agreement without implementing it. It is now an urgent matter, people are dying."
These are some of his strongest words so far on the situation in Zimbabwe, the BBC's Peter Biles in Johannesburg says.
Last week, South Africa said it would withhold some $28m of aid until a representative government was formed.
South Africa is the region's power-house and has led the way in efforts to find a resolution in Zimbabwe.
Mr Zuma described as an "unfortunate act" Zimbabwe's decision to refuse visas to former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, ex-US President Jimmy Carter and Nelson Mandela's wife Graca Machel, a human rights activist.
The three said the sole aim of their trip - on behalf of the Elders, a group set up to tackle world conflicts - had been to help people in Zimbabwe, and that they had no intention of becoming involved in any political negotiations.
The 'Elders' will stay in South Africa to assess the situation
Mr Annan said Zimbabwe's government had "made it very clear that it will not co-operate".
A Zimbabwean official denied refusing them entry, but said there had been no "prior consultations" over the timing and programme of the proposed visit. He advised them to reschedule.
Reacting to the news, Kenya's Prime Minister Raila Odinga on Sunday called for African Union peacekeepers to be deployed to Zimbabwe, saying "there is no legitimate government in Zimbabwe".
"The fact that Mugabe was a freedom fighter does not give him rights to own Zimbabwe and hang on to power," said Mr Odinga.
Mr Annan helped broker a power-sharing agreement in Kenya, which saw Mr Odinga named prime minister.
Aid groups say Zimbabwe is facing a major humanitarian crisis, with nearly half the population needing food aid by early next year.
The crisis has been made more pressing by the cholera epidemic that has swept Zimbabwe, killing at least 300 people and affecting some 6,000.
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