The latest talks in South Africa have failed - and here's why
Morgan Tsvangirai's supporters were relieved yesterday, Sunday, when it became clear that the Johannesburg meeting of the regional summit of South African leaders had failed to produce a solution to the Zimbabwe crisis. Many had begun to fear that if the MDC leader signed up to the agreement on the table, he would have fallen into a Mugabe trap.
The apparent sticking point, at this meeting and at the previous talks in a Harare hotel, has been the exact balance of power which would exist between Robert Mugabe as Head of State and Morgan Tsvangirai as Prime Minister of a transitional government.
Mugabe tempted Tsvangirai with the offer of responsibility for finance, health, education, transport, etc. But the President himself, far from being just a figurehead, would retain control of the police, the judiciary and the armed forces. And it is in this detail that the devil lies.
Tsvangirai's advisers have undoubtedly pointed out to him - if he hasn't seen it for himself - that if he signed up to the deal, he would be walking into a potentially fatal trap.
Using the police and the army, and of course the fearsome Central Intelligence Organisation, Mugabe's people would waste no time in inventing a fictional plot apparently designed to threaten the state. And Morgan Tsvangirai would find himself squarely in the frame.
As one political expert put it to me: "Once Tsvangirai was installed, it would be simple for Mugabe's generals and police chiefs and spies to fabricate charges against him, such as plotting a coup or an assassination attempt on the President.
"So-called 'witnesses' would be found and persuaded to testify against him. Tsvangirai would be arrested, and find himself in a rigged court, facing charges of treason and the death penalty."
At best the MDC leader and his party would be thrust into political limbo. And then where would we Zimbabweans find ourselves? Right back where we started.