HARARE – Opposition leader Nelson Chamisa and one of his key lieutenants, MDC national vice chairperson Tendai Biti, have called for political dialogue with President Emmerson Mnangagwa to end the country’s economic turmoil, which they say is impoverishing Zimbabweans.
This comes as the economic crisis is showing no signs of letting up any time soon — which has prompted Mnangagwa and his government to unveil a number of desperate and unpopular measures to try and stem the rot.
The crisis recently saw increased panic buying of goods across the country, amid fears by ordinary citizens that the local economy was slipping back to the horror 2008 hyper-inflationary era.
Appearing on Monday before the Commission of Inquiry that was appointed by Mnangagwa in September to probe the deadly post-election violence which left at least six civilians dead in Harare, Chamisa and Biti said Zimbabwe would only move forward if the country’s leadership was prepared to engage in political dialogue.
“We have a political legitimacy issue that can only be resolved through what you have already alluded to — political dialogue.
“That is why we have insisted that political dialogue is the way forward, and we have put on the table a five-point plan.
“Let us have a path to nation building, a path to peace building. That is what we have put on the table. But Mnangagwa does not have an appetite for it,” Chamisa told the commission.
“That is why we are saying we will use democratic tools to bring him to the negotiating table to resolve the legitimacy issue. That is our trajectory,” he added, noting further that a regional-led dialogue had led to the 2009 Government of National Unity (GNU) between Zanu PF and the MDC.
However, Chamisa did not say whether he was pushing for political dialogue that would result in another GNU.
Zimbabwe was forced into a GNU a decade ago following the disputed 2008 presidential election in which the late MDC founding leader Morgan Tsvangirai trounced former president Robert Mugabe hands down in the hotly-disputed polls.
The results of those elections were withheld for six long weeks by stunned authorities — amid widespread allegations of ballot tampering and fraud which were later revealed by former bigwigs of the ruling party.
In the ensuing sham presidential run-off, which authorities claimed was needed to determine the winner, Zanu PF apparatchiks engaged in an orgy of violence in which hundreds of Tsvangirai’s supporters were killed — forcing the former prime minister in the inclusive government to withdraw from the discredited race altogether.
Mugabe went on to stand in a widely-condemned one-man race in which he shamelessly declared himself the winner.
However, Sadc and the rest of the international community would have none of it, forcing the nonagenarian to share power with Tsvangirai for five years, to prevent the country from imploding completely.
Biti, who was Finance minister in the stability-inducing GNU, told the commission of inquiry that without political dialogue the country would remain trapped in conflict and economic turmoil.
“We do have a political crisis in Zimbabwe … it affects every walk of our life and it has affected the economy. Ninety five percent of the citizens are unemployed, there is no cash at the banks, the citizens are overtaxed. If you are not battered politically, you are battered economically.
“The political crisis in Zimbabwe is suffocating and choking to the ordinary citizen. Elections permanently destroy us. The election should not be a reason for divisions.
“Without soberness or maturity, the country shall be in economic malaise in the next four years. We are lagging behind every country in the region. We need dialogue to move our country forward,” Biti said.
“In our situation, we don’t accept the results of the 2018 election. So, we will quarrel for the next five years?
“Let’s visit the Constitution and see which parts need to be dealt with. Pieces of legislation like Aippa (Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act), Posa (Public Order and Security Act) need to be reformed.
“We need media reforms. We only have one broadcaster after 38 years of independence. How do we restore the social contract? We need a programme of national healing. We are a country and not a nation. We are nearly in the state of Rwanda in 1994.
“Let’s have reforms that deal with State capture and the militarisation of the State. How do we get our soldiers back to the barracks?” Biti added.
This comes after the camaraderie spirit which was on display in the run-up to the July 30 national elections and just before the August 1 shootings, dissipated following the killings — leaving the country deeply-divided.
Chamisa narrowly lost to Mnangagwa in the election, before he went on to accuse the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) of manipulating the results in favour of the Zanu PF leader.
However, Mnangagwa’s victory was upheld by the Constitutional Court which ruled that Chamisa had failed to provide evidence that he had won the election.
Political analysts have said that the August 1 violence and the resultant deaths had done a lot of harm to Mnangagwa’s quests to mend years of frosty relations with Western governments.
The post-election killings also cast a huge pall over Zimbabwe’s hopes of recovering from years of ruinous rule under Mugabe.
The seven-member commission is led by former South African president Kgalema Motlanthe.
The other members of the team are academics Lovemore Madhuku and Charity Manyeruke, Law Society of Zimbabwe (LSZ) ex-president Vimbai Nyemba, Rodney Dixon of the United Kingdom, former Tanzanian chief of the defence forces General Davis Mwamunyange and ex-Commonwealth secretary-general Chief Emeka Anyaoku of Nigeria.