Hope springs eternal: for the first time since the formation of the opposition MDC in September 1999, its leader, Morgan Tsvangirai, shook hands with President Robert Mugabe on 21 July 2008, after they, and Prof Arthur Mutambara, signed a Memorandum of Understanding paving the way for substantive talks between the three main parties in the country. The talks were to be completed in two weeks. So, is there light-at last-at the end of Zimbabwe's tunnel?.
It couldn't have been any better. This 21st day of July was made for Zimbabwe. It was a winter's day alright, but the sun had risen early and shone on the proceedings. The place was the Rainbow Towers Hotel (formerly Sheraton), just west of the Central Business District of the capital, Harare.
Here, for the first time since the formation of the opposition MDC party (which split into two in November 2005), Morgan Richard Tsvangirai came to shake the hand of the man whose mantle he had struggled to wrestle for the better part of the last decade.
The occasion was the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between Zanu PF and the two formations of the MDC. The MoU was to open the way for substantive dialogue aimed at finding the way forward after the recent traumatic elections.
After putting their signatures to the document, Prof Mutambara, leader of the smaller MDC faction (which now has 10 seats in Parliament, and four in the Senate) was the first to address the media. He spoke about the need for a long-term national vision. "We must put national interest before personal interests," he said. "We must be driven by national interest as we negotiate in the next two weeks. The people's will must be supreme and sovereign. Let's have shared national economic vision."
Tsvangirai (whose MDC-T party now has 100 seats in Parliament and 26 in the Senate) was the next to speak; and he spoke at length about his commitment to the talks while acknowledging that he had been hesitant to sign.
"My commitment to this process is unquestionable, it is not superficial, it is total because we want to achieve what Zimbabweans out there want to achieve," he said. "I sincerely acknowledge that if we put our heads together, we can find a solution; not finding a solution is not an option. I have been reluctant, but I want to share a heavy commitment that the process of negotiation is successful. We want a better Zimbabwe. This is a very historic occasion. I think...