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I, like many of my South African brethren, and the more optimistic Zimbabweans, believed for a time after the MDC boycotted the second round elections that there was a possibility of a negotiated settlement to the chaos north of the border. Unfortunately, many weeks on, the MDC and the ruling (in the most repressive sense) party are still stuck in talks about talks, with no productive end in sight. I now no longer believe that we will see a negotiated settlement to power sharing in the country.

There are, in my view, two ways that a shift in power will manifest in the short term, neither of which offers much cause to celebrate. The first would be if there was some sort of forceful third party intervention by a concerned state or states, with the intention of physically removing Mr Mugabe and his cohorts from power and handing some of that to the MDC under a negotiated peace of some sort. Third party intervention could also take the form of some sort of (arguably) effective sanctions, which would cause the regime sufficient pain to consider rethinking their fuck-the-MDC policy. The second path to power sharing would be via something internal in the country, where enough people are able to exert pressure (probably via the MDC, or other civil institutions – do labour unions and churches still meaningfully exist there?) on the government, to force them into power sharing in order to keep the country governable – much as happened in the Orange revolution in Ukraine.

Neither will come to pass.

There will be no third party intervention, whether military or sanctions, without an international mandate of some sort. The UN has convincingly indicated that it will not provide that authority, as the two autocratic members of the security council have indicated that they dislike the precedent of the UN intervening to restore democracy in an oppressive regime (shock, horror). The AU has not fared much better – welcoming Mr Mugabe to their summit the day after beating his way to victory at the polls. Besides the loud shouting of Botswana and Sierra Leone, whose dedication to the spirit of transparent and fair democracy puts my country to shame, most of the AU just did the usual Idi Amin shuffle, and spouted the same consensus-is-the-way bullshit that they put out whenever there is a blatant and transparent dictator who too many people happen to be good friends with. It makes me sad, but it is not surprising. Third party intervention is therefore not on the cards.

The other option, therefore, is for the MDC to be able to make the country ungovernable, so as to be able to put the government in a difficult position and make themselves stronger at the negotiating table. Unfortunately, they lack the means to do this, with most civil society groupings large enough to mobilise support having been long since dismantled by the likes of the CIO. Even if there were a network that could communicate a strategy to enough people, in the face of well-armed police and army, they would be hopelessly outgunned. The orange revolution worked because enough people could be mobilised and because the would-be-dictator could not weather the consequences of a bloodbath in the capital. Mr Mugabe has neither of these problems. The ability to create such a large set of protests is near-impossible, and the government couldnt give a fig whether they shoot MDC supporters individually or en-masse.

And so the only real leverage that the MDC could hope to exert in negotiations – that of being able to assist the government in making the country governable – does not exist. Consequently, there is no reason for ZANU to concede anything in talks. It is useful to pursue them, until international resolve wanes, and nobody has the will to shout about Zimbabwe like they did over election times, but that is all. I would not be surprised to read about the talks breaking down and returning to the usual muddle of murder and repression until something fundamental changes.