South Africa’s ruling party chief Jacob Zuma said Tuesday that Zimbabwe’s political parties should keep talking to resolve an impasse in forming a cabinet under a power-sharing deal.

But Zuma said that if outside mediation was needed, he was confident that his rival, former South African president Thabo Mbeki, could step in to break the deadlock.

“I am hoping that it is going to be resolved by Zimbabweans themselves. I think it is just taking long. They just have to negotiate with themselves and find a solution,” Zuma said in an interview on SA FM radio.

“What is happening now is a challenge to the leadership … to exercise responsibility as the leaders and the political parties for the sake of the country,” the leader of the ruling African National Congress (ANC) said.

Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe and opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai agreed on September 15 to form a unity government under a deal brokered by Mbeki.

Talks have since bogged down, with Tsvangirai accusing Mugabe of wanting to grab most key ministries — such as defence, home affairs, foreign affairs and finance.

A protracted political crisis has wreaked havoc in Zimbabwe, once one of Africa’s most prosperous countries which now suffers the world’s highest rate of inflation, last estimated at 11.2 million percent, with millions dependent on food aid.

Just days after Mbeki brokered the deal, he was forced from office in his own long-running power struggle with Zuma.

But Zuma on Tuesday commended his rival’s mediation efforts, and said he was confident that the former president could return to Zimbabwe if his help was again needed.

“If he intervenes again, I am certain he will do a good job,” Zuma said.

As party leader, Zuma is expected to stand for president in South Africa’s elections next year. Although he and Mbeki have feuded bitterly, Zuma said the former president would be deployed to campaign for the ANC ahead of the polls.