President Kgalema Motlanthe's approach on Zimbabwe is no different from that of former president Thabo Mbeki, says Cosatu.

"We are not quite excited by our current government, led by comrade Motlanthe's take on the issue," General Secretary Zwelinzima Vavi told a media briefing in Johannesburg.

"It is disappointing to say the least."

The trade union federation however said it was "slightly encouraged" by ANC president Jacob Zuma's attitude as he had spoken publicly against Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe.

Vavi said Motlanthe could take decisive action by going public and saying that he was withdrawing South Africa's acceptance of Mugabe as the legitimate president of Zimbabwe.

Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) General Secretary Wellington Chibebe said the path taken by Southern African Development Community leaders for an inclusive government in Zimbabwe was not going to improve the country's economy.

"No international investor will pour any money into a government led by Mugabe," he said.

The ZCTU, with the support of Cosatu, called for a neutral authority to be put in place in Zimbabwe to oversee a new round of free and fair elections.

"The neutral body's sole mandate would be to organise free and fair elections under international supervision."

Asked who they had in mind to carry out these duties, Chibebe said a retired judge or retired Catholic bishop would do.

Chibebe criticised SADC leaders for wanting a unity government in Zimbabwe. They were just an "old boys club" who nursed Mugabe, refused to be guarantors of democracy and were in blatant disregard of Sadc protocols and policies on elections.

"The fundamental problem with what they are pushing for — the 15 September agreement between Zanu-PF and MDC — is that it seeks to make the loser of elections a winner and the winner a loser," he said.

Chibebe said the trade union would never accept the unity government as a permanent solution. It would only accept it as an interim government whose responsibility would be holding free and fair elections six months after being put into power.

He called on Sadc and African Union leaders to take responsibility for the humanitarian crisis in Zimbabwe because they had "consistently" refused to take action when it was possible.

"It is they who allowed Mugabe a free reign to terrorise and murder the citizens of his country. They should have recognised him as the legitimate president of Zimbabwe after the 29 March elections which he lost."

He said the "most credible" neutral authority would come from the United Nations.