Schools and hospitals returning to life. Food in the supermarkets and queues at the tills. Investors flying in and refugees coming home. Independent newspapers due for launch and international media broadcasting openly. Book fairs, poetry slams and jazz festivals drawing crowds. A president and prime minister laughing together as they call for national healing. This is Zimbabwe in August 2009. Politically motivated beatings turning families against themselves. Villagers bartering chickens in the absence of a new currency. MPs, lawyers, journalists and students under arrest. Corruption rampant and another cholera outbreak predicted. A president rebuilding his tools of oppression and a prime minister said to be in danger of assassination. This, too, is Zimbabwe in August 2009. Six months after Robert Mugabe and his arch-rival, Morgan Tsvangirai, publicly swallowed their enmity and tried to speak with one voice, southern Africa's problem country is still a contradictory and confusing place. "We are at a fork [in the road]," said Tendai Biti, Tsvangirai's most powerful lieutenant. "Going left could be going towards a new Zimbabwe. Going right could be doing a cul-de-sac and going back to square zero." At the centre of the intrigue is the game of political chess between Mugabe and Tsvangirai, who describes it as "the only game in town" if Zimbabwe is to survive. The Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) leader believes there is no alternative to the power sharing agreement salvaged from last year's general election. Robbed of victory at the ballot box, Tsvangirai was sworn in as prime minister in February in a compromise that allowed Mugabe to extend his 29-year rule. It has been trench warfare ever since between the MDC, which runs ministries such as education and health, and Mugabe's Zanu-PF, which still controls the army, police and judiciary. "It's purely a marriage of convenience," said one Harare residents' activist. "Don't expect any babies soon." The results were summarised by a regional newspaper as the good, the bad and the ugly. Perversely, the unity government was blessed in inheriting a country at a nadir after eight years of degradation, meaning that almost anything it tried would represent improvement. Hyperinflation of 89,7-sextillion percent had killed the Zimbabwean dollar, but the adoption of the US dollar and some prudent policies have since helped stabilise the economy, forecast to grow 3,7% this year. An MDC official said that tax returns to the treasury had risen from $4-million a month in January to $60-70-million now, still some way short of the $120-million needed to run the country. Among foreign donors, Britain alone is providing $100-million of targeted aid this year. Supermarket shelves that were once bare are stocked high again, though 94% unemployment means many people cannot afford to shop. About 2,8-million pupils are back at school as teachers finally receive a monthly wage, albeit just $100 to $165 to work in crumbling classrooms. Zimbabwe University came back to life last week after six months in darkness. Hospitals and clinics are functioning again, with doctors and nurses back at work. But the revival comes with caveats. About 70% of the population does not have access to clean water and the cholera outbreak that killed more than 4 000 people is widely predicted to return with the rainy season towards the end of the year.