HARARE – There could finally be light at the end of the tunnel for long-suffering Zimbabweans, after it emerged yesterday that President Emmerson Mnangagwa and opposition leader Nelson Chamisa are indirectly engaging each other in talks aimed at ending the country’s decades-long political and economic crisis.
This comes after well-placed sources told the Daily News yesterday that the tentative dialogue had already resulted in Chamisa appointing a high-powered MDC team to negotiate with the ruling Zanu PF to end the bad blood between the two parties.
It also comes as respected clergyman and businessman, Shingi Munyeza, has made an impassioned plea to both men to put aside their differences and work together in the interests of the country.
On his part, Chamisa’s spokesperson Nkululeko Sibanda also hinted to the Daily News yesterday that his boss was engaging Mnangagwa behind the scenes — to try and end their bickering, which analysts say is detrimental to national development.
“President Nelson Chamisa takes Zimbabwe very seriously and understands the demands for maturity, seriousness and intellectual engagement when dealing with national questions … and it will be saddening if you were to find him engaging in middle negotiations.
“The president will not negotiate via the media. His mandate is to negotiate as mandated by the MDC national council, and those issues are what the president is pushing day in and day out.
“Therefore, we simply need to be alive to that and understand that the business of the day has to be done within proper corridors,” Sibanda said.
The youthful opposition leader has been brawling with Mnangagwa ever since he narrowly lost the hotly-disputed July 30 presidential election, whose result he vigorously challenged at the Constitutional Court (Con-Court).
Chamisa went on to accuse the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) of manipulating the poll results in favour of the Zanu PF leader.
But Mnangagwa’s victory was upheld by the Con-Court, which ruled that Chamisa had failed to provide evidence that he had won the election.
Last week, Chamisa held a massive demonstration in Harare — where he heaped pressure on Mnangagwa to act on the deteriorating political and economic situation in the country.
Addressing his supporters then, who were protesting the falling standards of living in the country and the government’s recent unpopular economic revival measures, Chamisa also said Zimbabwe could not afford “one day longer” without addressing the country’s worsening political and economic crisis.
“Firstly, we are saying to Mnangagwa let’s have negotiations. You must come and sit down so that we can solve the current economic crisis.
“Zimbabweans are suffering. The crisis in the country is a crisis of governance, confidence, legitimacy and leadership. How can we solve this?
“We are saying let us unite. On our side we have good leadership qualities and you lack leadership qualities. So, we must unite and map the way forward,” Chamisa told his supporters.
Mnangagwa’s spokesperson, George Charamba — who is cagey about the talks — complimented Chamisa yesterday for “abandoning” his row with Mnangagwa.
“Like I said before, if there is anything that is happening, it is way above my radar. If they (Chamisa and the MDC) have recognised their folly of shouting from rooftops, one hopes it’s a new beginning that will take the country forward,” he told the Daily News.
Zanu PF insiders claimed that the former liberation movement was already, on its part, pushing to have former Finance minister Tendai Biti in government — whether the currently indirect talks succeeded or failed.
“There is no doubt that Biti has resonance with the West, and the United States in particular. The country thus needs him in government if we are to emerge from the present economic quagmire,” one ruling party source said.
Mnangagwa, who had worked hard to break from ousted president Robert Mugabe’s discredited past, suffered a huge setback when deadly violence broke out on the streets of Harare on August 1 — leading to the deaths of at least six innocent people when the military joined the police in quelling post-election disturbances which had broken out.
The shootings occurred after millions of Zimbabweans had cast their votes in the polls to choose both a new Parliament and president, following the dramatic fall from power of Mugabe last November.
The elections were the first since 1980 to be held in the country without Mugabe’s participation, whose 37-year, iron-fisted rule was stunningly ended by a military intervention which triggered events that ended with his resignation.
The elections also marked the first time that the main opposition MDC was not represented by its founding leader Morgan Tsvangirai, who lost his brave battle against colon cancer on Valentine’s Day this year.
Political analysts have also said 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 powers.
Zimbabwe was forced into a government of national unity (GNU) a decade ago, following the hotly-disputed 2008 presidential election in which Tsvangirai soundly trounced Mugabe.
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.