But negotiations succeed because all parties are committed, are willing to give up something and take their national obligations with sincerity. So far we have only heard demands from the MDC. They are prepared for talks if Zanu PF delivers Mugabe; they want power sharing and are ready to grant Mugabe immunity for past crimes. Most important, they want a new constitution.
I ask myself today how it was possible for those bishops to have their reputations sullied by their closeness to Mugabe more than his cabinet ministers and other architects of government policies with whom the MDC now seeks to cut political deals. I thought the fight was more against an evil system than an individual? Will sadistic state agents who torture and beat up opposition supporters transform into angels over night just because Mugabe is gone and there is a new face at State House?
Curiously, nobody has solicited Zanu PF’s views on the Sadc initiative and Mbeki’s role as the peace broker. It is portrayed as the vanquished part and must surrender everything.
This to me is to approach the negotiation process in utter bad faith and there can be nothing better assured to fail. Mbeki could soon get frustrated if this is the environment in which he is expected to help. He will decide his time is being wasted and let Zimbabweans stew in their own juice.
Mugabe is not averse to that turn of events. He is remorseless and has become an implacable enemy. Some more bloodshed for him is a little balm to cool his path as the action enters the catastrophe. His fear is most likely that the MDC will act rationally and deny him a final demonstration of what he is capable of doing, if only to spite Tony Blair and George Bush. He already relishes the fact that he will outlive them in office.
As for the MDC, the truth of its situation is more sobering than the surrealistic interpretations about the improved stature of its leaders following the brutal police beatings of March 11.
In the international community, the injuries to opposition leaders and their supporters had no more than a Sharpville effect, emphasising at once Mugabe’s tyranny and the utter vulnerability of those fighting it. It provoked the usual condemnation and Mugabe told his critics to "go hang". He has innoculated himself against so-called international opinion.
Locally, what the beatings did was to temporarily relieve the MDC of the paralysing catatonia caused by the October 2005 rupture. There has been visible activity although there are no obvious indications of a meeting of minds in the leadership which Mbeki is demanding.
Mbeki must realise he is dealing with an opposition which overrates its bargaining power and an intransigent, arrogant old man who cannot contemplate life outside State House and sees next year’s election as his final showdown with the forces of imperialism. Failure by faction leaders in his party to openly challenge him only reinforces this belief in his indispensability.
In the end Mbeki’s success or failure rests on Zimbabwe’s political leaders putting the national interest before personal egos. There can be no outright winner as a party or at the personal level. It is Zimbabweans who must succeed or fail. Mbeki comes merely to facilitate a process and an outcome which ultimately must reflect the wishes of the people of Zimbabwe. Anything else is a foreign impost with no legitimacy, and Mbeki is alive to that fact....