The handshake that shook a continent
But is it anything more than just another Mugabe plot?
As I forecast on this site at the weekend, President Mugabe and opposition MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai came face to face yesterday, signed an agreement outlining a framework for talks on Zimbabwe's political future, and shook hands on the deal.
This bizarre meeting of two sworn enemies took place in a Harare hotel, and was chaired by an apparently triumphant South African president Thabo Mbeki, who has been much criticised for previous failures to make something like this happen.
But the ink of the signatures was barely dry before the first doubts were expressed. Observers pointed out that a handshake and some reluctant smiles, unprecedented though they were, will do nothing substantial to rid the country of Mugabe's reign of terror and oppression.
As the talks begin - the Memorandum gives them a two-week timetable - it is evident that the two leaders have radically opposing aims in view. Tsvangirai clearly sees the process leading to a period of transition of power, with the end result a truly democratic government as voted for in the elections earlier in the year.
But Mugabe is thought to have another scenario in mind. He sees the talks as a way of muzzling the opposition, deflecting international criticism of his rule, avoiding further sanctions against the country, and giving his African neighbours an excuse once again to hail him as a great leader of his people.
He can pretend the talks succeed. He may offer a couple of cabinet places, plus a Mercedes or two, to top MDC figures. But he will remain President. He will be backed by the same military junta that keeps him in power today, and he will only retire at a time he chooses.
Meanwhile the people of Zimbabwe will continue to suffer the hardships of a failed state, a collapsed economy, and an inflation rate of ludicrous proportions.
Will the violence now cease - as Tsvangirai was originally demanding as a condition for talks to begin? I believe it continues today, though perhaps on a slightly diminished scale.
To give the people, especially MDC supporters, freedom from fear will mean the reining in of the brutal Mugabe militia. The thugs will lose their licence to murder and maim, which the state has granted them. They will also lose the money the government has been paying them.
Will they go quietly? Will they stop the bullying, the beating and the killing? Or will this prove to be one genie that will be reluctant to go back in the bottle?
See the memo here