HOW much longer can the Zimbabwe situation be allowed to fester? Two months ago President Mugabe of Zimbabwe and Morgan Tsvangirai, the leader of the country's opposition, signed a power sharing agreement negotiated by Thabo Mbeki, then president of South Africa. Despite the smiles and handshakes few people who read the small print of the agreement gave it much chance of succeeding - and yesterday the doubters were proved right when Tsvangirai and his Movement for Democratic Change rejected the latest compromise proposed by the South African Development Community (SADC).
The breakdown came as the result of Mugabe's insistence on keeping the all key Cabinet posts in the hands of ministers from his KANU-PF party.
Tsvangirai asked only for one key post - that of Home Affairs which controls the police - but Mugabe would not even countenance that in his rather strange concept of power sharing. Last weekend the SADC proposed that there should be two Home Affairs ministers, one from each party, and it was this recipe for failure that Tsvangirai has now rightly rejected as unworkable.
Mugabe may decide to abandon the power-sharing agreement and go ahead with forming a government of his own; the Movement for Democratic Change says that any such government would be illegitimate - but that is not something to bother Mugabe greatly. The alternative would be intervention by the African Union and possibly the UN to save the power sharing agreement. Meanwhile the people of Zimbabwe continue to suffer.