Say goodbye to power-sharing
The dream of a new deal could end this weekend
Sources within Zanu-PF have told me this week that Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe will decide on Sunday to bring down the curtain on the farcical power-sharing talks. He will announce, probably early next week, that the dream deal with the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), signed with such fanfares only a few weeks ago, is off.
Then he will announce his new cabinet. This will include Arthur Mutambara, leader of the tiny MDC breakaway faction, purely for window-dressing. All the other members will be hard-line Zanu-PF party men. And for Zimbabwe, nothing will have changed.
Throughout the talks Mugabe has been faced with three options. If you make the existential effort to look at things through his eyes, his final decision has been obvious and inevitable.
His first option was to ignore the wailings and threats from his core Zanu-PF support in the Politburo and the Central Committee, and give the MDC control of some of the government's key ministries.
This, he soon came to realise, would have resulted in the mass resignation of the security chiefs and other top men, including his right-hand man Emmerson Mnangagwa, now known to have organised the well-documented Gukurahundi massacres in the 1980s.
Mugabe would then have been left with a skeleton party to lead, he would have little personal power, and he would be highly likely to face either a military coup or a new breakaway Zanu-PF even more toxic than its parent. Both his career and his life would be in danger.
Option two facing Mugabe was to convince the MDC to accept a lesser role in the new government, promising that it would be constantly consulted, and that leader Morgan Tsvangirai's opinions would be taken into account.
To be fair, he appears to have attempted to take this option. But the MDC were having none of it. Tsvangirai insisted on a full and tangible share of government. One MDC negotiator told me: "We know Mugabe. We know we can't trust him. Once bitten, twice shy. We refused."
This left Mugabe his third option, which he appears to be taking. He is calling the whole deal off, accusing the MDC of failing to listen to reason, of being driven by "western masters", and of trying to steal all power from Zanu-PF.
Can he do this? Why not? After all, his arguement goes, he's been running the country without any form of unity or power sharing with anyone else for years, so why not just keep going?
What can the MDC do in the face of such implaccable defiance? It has asked for ex-President Thabo Mbeki to resume his mediator role. But Mugabe has personally told Mbeki of his intentions. Mbeki has no wish to be associated closely with the resulting debacle, and at the time of writing has yet to appear in Harare.
The MDC has also appealed to the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) and the African Union (AU) to intervene. It's a forlorn hope, but at the moment this is all the MDC - and the rest of us in Zimbabwe - have.