So the President expanded sanctions against the Zimbabwean government, at the same time that both Robert Mugabe and opposition leaders are meeting for talks on forming a unity government. So what's going on here? Richard Dowder thinks it's a trap:
It is clear what Robert Mugabe wants to see from the talks with the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) that began in South Africa on Thursday. On December 27 1987 he sat down with Joshua Nkomo, the leader of the Zimbabwe African People's Union (Zapu) and signed a unity accord. It followed seven years of sustained violence against Nkomo's party in which some 18,000 people died. The creation of a government of national unity made Nkomo vice-president. Three Zapu leaders were given cabinet posts. They might as well have been hamsters in a cage on Mugabe's desk.
This is what Morgan Tsvangirai, the leader of the MDC, must remember as he sits down at the talks. Like Nkomo, his party has been battered, with many of his MPs dead, in hiding or facing charges, and more than 1,500 officials in prison. The mediator, Thabo Mbeki, and other African presidents would be happy with a deal similar to the 1987 accord. But will the MDC be able to arm-wrestle a deal that leads to Mugabe stepping down or to free and fair elections - or even a joint Mugabe/Tsvangirai control of the state and its security apparatus? The question, as Humpty Dumpty said, is: who is to be master?
Dowder argues that the talks are aimed at buying time while Mugabe can consolidate his grip on power and prepare for war. Certainly what we saw leading up to the election - tales of rape, murder, and intimidation - lead in that direction. The race might be between time and economic survival. Zimbabwe cannot currently produce enough bank note paper to keep the government solvent and paying for its thugs and supporters in the military. Really chaos is inevitable - it's a matter of how long the ruling elite can keep it at bay. So freezing the financial assets that they are taking out of the country with utmost speed is a good step.