TUCKED away inside the Herald in the final paragraphs of its story on Mondayâ€™s talks was a handy little disclosure by â€œan insiderâ€.
It said that Morgan Tsvangirai had a bilateral meeting with President Mugabe where he demanded that all political prisoners be released and senior appointments in the public service made since September be annulled.
Many will consider these to be entirely reasonable demands and indeed the MDC-T leader would find it difficult to persuade his followers of the need to join a unity government when innocent people are being detained on spurious charges and torture routinely practised, according to doctorsâ€™ organisations.
But what was of interest to us was the fact that the Herald, no doubt prompted by its â€œinsidersâ€, had for weeks been telling us there was no chance whatsoever that Mugabe would consent to a meeting with Tsvangirai because everything had been decided last year in South Africa.
So didnâ€™t Mondayâ€™s tÃªte-Ã -tÃªte amount to a meeting? And werenâ€™t the concessions made on gubernatorial appointments of any significance?
Nelson Chamisa, by the way, should note when Mugabeâ€™s minions give confidential briefings to the state press, and ensure the independent press is fully counter-briefed so certain claims are effectively dealt with.
Anyway, it was useful to know the next time we hear there is â€œno going backâ€ that there will be!
Does anybody recall the conciliatory letter Mugabe wrote to Barack Obama congratulating him on his election victory in November? Since then Obama has been under sustained fire from Mugabeâ€™s publicists.
So what was the point of trying to open a diplomatic door only to have your zealots making sure it remains firmly closed? Admittedly there wasnâ€™t much prospect of success but it wouldnâ€™t have hurt to have tried.
Meanwhile, we noted the following paragraph in Obamaâ€™s inaugural address: â€œTo those leaders around the world who seek to sow conflict, or blame their societyâ€™s ills on the West: know that your people will judge you on what you can build, not what you destroy.
To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history; but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.â€
How can Jonathan Moyo write a lengthy defence of new Attorney-General Johannes Tomana without once declaring an interest? He must assume we all have very short memories.
Was Tomana not Moyoâ€™s own lawyer who was imposed on the Media and Information Commission by Moyo when he was Minister of Information?
Why did Moyo omit to mention that connection? And what was Tomanaâ€™s fate when Moyo lost his job?
A â€œfalse controversyâ€ has erupted over Tomanaâ€™s appointment, Moyo claims, since Tomana declared himself to be a proud supporter of Zanu PF.
Tomana has every right to belong to Zanu PF, Moyo says. In todayâ€™s highly charged political climate there is no Zimbabwean who does not support Zanu PF or the MDC.
This is largely true. Tomana has the same right of association that the rest of us supposedly enjoy. But, as the governmentâ€™s chief law officer, he is also expected to exercise a professional attachment to the rule of law. He needs the respect of the profession if he is to work with it. Letâ€™s hope he earns it.
Moyo claims Judge-President Rita Makarauâ€™s criticism of lawyers was specifically directed at lawyers like Beatrice Mtetwa â€œwho think they have free licence to criticise anyone and everyone including harming the national interest without being held accountableâ€.
So Tomana has a constitutional right to belong to the party of his choice while Mtetwa is accused of â€œharming the national interestâ€ by insisting that individuals kidnapped and tortured have the right to the protection of the law?
This would appear to be a selective approach to the application of the law. And in what way is Mtetwa â€œharming the national interestâ€ by seeking judicial protection for those arbitrarily seized and detained?
Why is she wrong to ask judges to uphold the law instead of swallowing the dubious claims of the state which is waging a not-so-clandestine war against the opposition?
Moyo suggests that President Mugabe has no obligation to consult Morgan Tsvangirai on appointments to the government or any other matter.
No, indeed there is no obligation other than that of working together for national recovery.
Why does Moyo think it is unreasonable for those who are party to the September 15 pact to insist that Mugabe upholds the terms that were agreed upon before they join the government? Why is it so irrational to insist upon sincerity and conformity with the terms agreed?
That includes upholding the rule of law and discouraging your followers from attacking their opponents.
Moyo accuses Mtetwa of â€œscandalousâ€ behaviour by claiming there was a breakdown in the rule of law.
But isnâ€™t it the duty of lawyers to point out where they think there has been a breakdown in the rule of law?
And isnâ€™t that what much of the legal profession, and indeed the country at large, believes given the apparent reluctance of magistrates and judges to afford applicants the liberty to which they are entitled?
Is Moyo seeking to take from us the right to criticise court judgements? And how low must he sink to attract the applause of his former colleagues?
He claims it is easy for â€œlawyers like Mtetwaâ€ to harm Zimbabweâ€™s national interest because she is a Swazi national.
Now that is a scandalous remark by any definition. Why doesnâ€™t Moyo disclose a certain interest in dealing with Swazi nationals before he fires off these cheap shots at others?
Moyoâ€™s whole Sunday Mail article last weekend, first carried in newzimbabwe.com, was clearly designed to advertise his availability for office. It will be interesting to see what he gains from it.
Meanwhile, we were interested to note Nathaniel Manheru giving Patrick Chinamasa his marching orders on legislation to gag the Law Society.
â€œWhere self-regulation doesnâ€™t work, then direct regulation must come into play,â€ he wrote last Saturday. It worked in the media profession, he claims despite the collapse of nearly every state prosecution brought under Aippa.
â€œWhy not for the legal profession where cases of misconduct clearly undermine public faith in the administration of justice?â€
â€œThe ministry clearly watched a very dangerous poacher turn herself into a game keeper at the Law Society of Zimbabwe,â€ Manheru remarked in reference to Mtetwa.
â€œInstead of fearing, the poacher is actually expanding her role, including creating and dishing out phoney awards named after legal luminaries as happened just this week.â€
The Law Society recently inaugurated the Walter Kamba Rule of Law Award which recognised Justice Wilson Sanduraâ€™s courageous judgements on the Supreme Court bench. Manheru clearly objected.
While we should expect such malevolent remarks from the likes of Manheru, we certainly donâ€™t expect Chinamasa to defend the indefensible. He called Tsvangiraiâ€™s demand for the rescinding of the appointment of the RBZ governor and Attorney-General â€œmisplacedâ€.
There was an urgent need to fill the two positions, he claimed.
The governor of the RBZ had been playing a leading role in fighting sanctions, Chinamasa said, while in the case of the AG, there had been â€œan increase in banditry and insurgency and there was no way the government could operate without such an appointmentâ€.
â€œIt is to everyoneâ€™s knowledge,â€ Chinamasa claimed, â€œthat MDC-T was recruiting former soldiers and police officers for military training in Botswana with the intention of removing the government.â€
Is that so? Does the public in all seriousness believe these charges? Does anybody? And what evidence can Chinamasa produce?
Donâ€™t we recall similar charges about militia training (in South Africa) which collapsed in the past? Donâ€™t we recall even before that episode the late Justice Sandra Mungwira in 2004 describing as a complete fabrication state evidence in the case of MDC officials in Bulawayo, whom Mugabe had labelled terrorists?
The best response to Chinamasaâ€™s claims about MDC-T training came from the Botswana authorities themselves. Why should a party want to remove a government by force that it had already defeated at the polls, they asked?
Chinamasa, it should be recalled, was a casualty of that rout. Which may explain his need to lash out at the MDC-T from time to time. But what he claims to be â€œeveryoneâ€™s knowledgeâ€ is certainly not what he thinks.
As for Gideon Gono leading the fight against sanctions, his role in promoting inflation by printing money has been fully recognised.
He only joined the ruling partyâ€™s dishonest campaign to blame all their self-imposed troubles on â€œsanctionsâ€ when the Australian government took steps against his children. That was unfortunate.
But we never could understand why he should have wanted, like Reason Wafawarova, to practise his patriotism in Australia!
We were pleased to see our old friend Olley Maruma occupying the slot in the Herald Letters column usually occupied by the chief spokesmen of the regime masquerading as somebody else.
He was dutifully attacking Eddie Cross for suggesting there was a need for a change of driver on the bus of state. Maruma, rather clumsily, attempted to translate this as a class narrative.
If Maruma wants to adopt this approach, he should explain to us why he took full advantage of the hospitality extended to him by the British Council recently.
He was spotted guzzling the enemyâ€™s booze and wolfing down their snacks at a Chatham House function. Letâ€™s hope that apart from this conspicuous consumption he managed to give a good account of himself.
Somebody not giving such a good account of herself was Grace Mugabe in Hong Kong last week. She reportedly lost her cool with some pesky photographers.
A London Sunday Times photographer claims he was beaten up and punched by the First Lady. She flew into a rage when she was spotted last week leaving the exclusive Shangri-La Hotel in Hong Kong, the newspaper said. She had been staying there with her entourage.
â€œHolding a Jimmy Choo-style bag estimated to be worth at least Â£2 000, and hiding behind Cavalli rhine-stone-framed glasses with a red cashmere shawl over her head, she ordered her bodyguard to attack the photographer, Richard Jones,â€ the newspaper reported.
â€œWhile the bodyguard tried to wrestle away Jonesâ€™ camera, she joined in the assault.
â€œThe man held him while she hit him again and again in the face with her fists,â€ the paper said. â€œShe was screaming, completely crazy,â€ said Werner Zapletal, a tourist from Austria who witnessed the incident.
Jones (42) suffered nine cuts, abrasions and bruises to the face and head caused by the heavy, diamond-encrusted rings Mugabe was wearing, according to a medical report by Dr Raymond Ng, a general practitioner in Hong Kong.
During the assault more burly bodyguards came running from the hotel but were intercepted by security men from a nearby commercial building.
â€œMugabe and her female companion fled around a corner seeking to hide their faces, only to run straight into a second photographer, Tim Oâ€™Rourke.
He snapped a few pictures before she flew at him with her fists flying, pulled his hair and tried to smash his camera. She then hurried back to her five-star refuge.â€
The Hong Kong police, who were called to the scene, detained the bodyguard. He was allowed to go after questioning. The police took a statement from Jones.
The Sunday Times said officers at the Tsim Sha Tsui police station will study CCTV footage of the incident which they are treating as â€œseriousâ€ and â€œpoliticalâ€. A decision on whether to press charges is pending but Mugabe could claim immunity from prosecution.
Grace flew to Hong Kong on January 9 and installed herself in the Â£600-a-night Harbour Suite on the 18th floor of the Shangri-La, according to the Sunday Times.
There she played hostess to her daughter, Bona, who studies in the city, and to a stream of relatives and friends. She rarely went out but other members of the party were ferried around in black limousines costing Â£60 an hour, the paper said. La Dolce Vita!