Hopes for an end to Zimbabwe’s drawn-out political crisis were dashed again on Monday when the pro-democracy Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) dismissed reports that talks to settle the details of a power-sharing agreement signed with President Robert Mugabe three weeks ago were to resume immediately.

The state-controlled daily Herald said on Monday that negotiating teams from Mugabe’s Zanu-PF party, prime minister-designate Morgan Tsvangirai’s MDC and a splinter faction of the MDC were to meet later in the day to attempt to iron out a wrangle over the share of cabinet portfolios between the three parties.

The issue was due to have been finalized a few days after the September 15 signing of the agreement on a power-sharing transitional government, but three sets of meetings between the leaders of the three groups have ended in deadlock.

The MDC says the 84-year-old autocratic Mugabe is refusing to budge on his insistence that Zanu-PF will hold all the important ministries -defence, home affairs with the police, finance, foreign affairs, local government and justice.

“There was nothing planned; there was no meeting nor communication for convening talks,” MDC spokesman Nelson Chamisa said. “The whole nation is hanging, we are all at a standstill.” He said Zanu-PF and the Herald, which it controls, were “on a mission to misinform the nation.” There was “total deadlock” on the ministries, he said.

He said the MDC was hoping that “we have a detour by getting the SADC or African Union involved.” The Southern African Development Community (SADC) is the 14-nation regional bloc.

The two organizations have both agreed to act as guarantors for the agreement.

The country has effectively been without a cabinet since the new MDC-dominated parliament was convened on August 26.

Observers say the deadlock is accelerating the economic and humanitarian collapse of what was once one of Africa’s most prosperous countries.

Millions face dire hunger in the coming months unless a new government that can attract international aid and investment is cobbled together.