There are growing calls from prominent South Africans for President Kgalema Motlanthe, who also chairs the Southern African Development Community, to increase pressure on Zimbabwe president Robert Mugabe. The calls come as toll from Zimbabwe's cholera epidemic reaches 800 dead with 15,000 infected and repression increases against the Movement for Democratic Change.

Leading South Africans have called on South African President Kgalema Motlanthe to show greater leadership in the Zimbabwe crisis.

The former vice-chancellor of the University of Cape Town and a leading anti-apartheid activist, Mamphela Ramphele, this week said a tragedy is playing out in Zimbabwe because of  what Nelson Mandela observed is a failure of leadership on many levels.

She said President Motlanthe has an historic opportunity as chairman of the Southern African Development Community and leader of Zimbabwe's most powerful neighbor, to put pressure on Mr. Mugabe to step down as president in return for a reconstruction program under United Nations supervision.

The former deputy-chair of South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission and head of the New York-based International Center for Transitional Justice, Alex Borain, said Mr. Motlanthe had a special responsibility. He said he should increase pressure on Mugabe to step down or call for immediate elections under United Nations supervision.       
Wilmot James of the Cape Town-based Economic Justice Initiative said Mr. Motlanthe must lead a SADC humanitarian mission, with UN assistance, and install Movement for Democratic Change leader Morgan Tsvangirai as prime minister since his party won the March elections.

In an editorial Friday, South Africa's influential weekly, The Financial Mail said that Mr. Mugabe, who it called Zimbabwe's destroyer, must leave office immediately.

The newspaper said Mr. Motlanthe has only two options: to cut off all supplies to Zimbabwe, in order to bring Mr Mugabe down; or to invade.

Meanwhile, humanitarian groups continue to battle a cholera epidemic that has claimed some 800 lives. The water-borne disease emerged due to heavy rains and the country's collapsed health, water and sanitation systems.

Zimbabwe's Information Minister Sikhanyiso Ndlovu accused the West of launching a biological warfare on Zimbabwe in order to overthrow Mr. Mugabe.

"This [cholera] is a serious biological, chemical weapon, a genocidal onslaught on the people of Zimbabwe by the British still fighting to re-colonize Zimbabwe," he said. "And they are using their allies."

In addition, Mr. Mugabe's spokesman, George Charamba, said in his Saturday column in the government-controlled Herald newspaper that international news agencies and journalists have invited an unspecified action because of their reporting on the cholera epidemic.

He wrote that the line between these journalistic misdeeds and espionage grows thinner by the day and said the authorities are about to place a price on those concerned.