The Morgan Tsvangirai faction of the MDC today announced that an "understanding" has been reached on Constitutional Amendment No 19, the biggest stumbling block to the formation of a government of national unity, otherwise known as the Inclusive Government.
Yet there was no optimism today amongst the people in Harare, where I post from. The people's patience has been tried sorely since September 15 and they now weary and wary.
The question for those closely following this process, however, is whether this signals a change in strategy by Morgan Tsvangirai. You will recall that I have repeatedly stated here that the MDC regrets signing that agreement and are now seeking to reopen the negotiations from scratch. The MDC leader, I have said, is now pursuing a strategy of frustrating SADC and the African Union in order to find a doorway into the United Nations and have Zimbabwe tabled there as matter of grave international concern. It still hold true that Morgan Tsvangirai basically wants presidential powers and is very reluctant to join Mugabe unless he is given powers to basically co-rule, a situation that would see every decision Mugabe makes being basically "approved" by Tsvangirai after consultations.
Of course, this is unrealistic, given what we know of the nature of the dictator of Zimbabwe. Still, we all live in hope, I suppose.
To answer the question whether this announcement, which seems to contradict Tsvangirai's statement yesterday that he will no longer participate in talks until Mbeki excuses himself, is another about-turn by the MDC leader. The answer as I see it is that it is not. We must keep in mind that the MDC are pursuing a two-pronged strategy here. First, they want to give the impression of continuing to engage Mugabe so that they prevent the appointment of a unilateral government by the dictator. This is a shrewd tactic, and it has worked so far. But only because Mugabe sees the trap and is walking around it.
The second prong of the strategy is to agree to inconsequential matters (as the MDC sees them), so that they maintain the fiction of being committed to the talks. At the same time, they will always be pulling back from that final leap that would catapult them into the arms of ZANU PF.
This is the real strategy.
By refusing to consummate their marriage to ZANU PF until all lobola demanded is paid, the opposition party hopes that it will so exasperate the two regional groupings, SADC and AU, that they will admit defeat and allow the MDC to take the matter to the United Nations in order to get an international mediator from that body appointed. The MDC has lost faith that any mediator appointed from within Africa would treat Mugabe the way they want him treated. At the same time, I will also not recoil from repeating the fact that this strategy is fatally flawed, because, even if pigs did fly and the United Nations appointed a mediator, Mugabe would simply ignore him and refuse to admit him into the country, like he did with Annan, Jimmy Carter and Graca Machel.
The short answer to the question, then, is that, no, the MDC has not changed course. They are still determined to derail these talks unless they achieve nothing less than a co-presidency for Tsvangirai. Look, it would be tiresome to go yet again into the details of why this is a foolhardy strategy, to point out that Morgan was told as late as last week by the Chair of the AU that he should "go back to SADC and finish the unfinished business there".
This is no cause for celebration, and the people are aware of that. Most of them can be heard in the streets saying that the MDC is being cruel, raising hopes and dashing them in quick-fire succession. The saying I hear most where people gather is a Shona one: "MDC iri kutamba nepfungwa dzedu" which basically translates into: "MDC is messing around with our emotions (or brains)." (I expect the messenger will be shot for this, but that is part of the job and must be taken as given).
My prediction and analysis, to be found in the archives of this post, still stand. There is not going to be a government in Zimbabwe that involves the MDC any time soon. My bet is five years. And I still stand by that. While Mbeki and Biti throw venom at the each other, the bemused and suffering people of Zimbabwe have, I can say with certainty, decided to "throw the bums out" next chance they get. I would like this to be my last post on this irksome topic, we have read the MDC, we know what they will do next and will not be surprised. It is time now for this blog to concentrate on matters of more immediate concern to the general public, who are being neglected in all this by Mugabe and Tsvangirai.