Editorial Comment: Zimbabwe needs genuine dialogue

Source: Editorial Comment: Zimbabwe needs genuine dialogue – The Standard February 24, 2019

Editorial Comment

The dialogue between some of the political parties that took part in last year’s disputed presidential elections is fast turning into a farce because of President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s determination to forge ahead despite lack of consensus on the way forward.

Mnangagwa early this month invited candidates that took part in the disputed July 30, 2018 presidential elections to a meeting that was meant to set the framework for the dialogue, but his strongest opponent in those polls, Nelson Chamisa, refused to attend.

Chamisa argues that any genuine dialogue must be convened by a neutral person and should address the election dispute.

On the other hand, Mnangagwa insists that his legitimacy should not be part of the agenda.

Last Friday, a second meeting was convened and another two candidates, Noah Manyika of Build Zimbabwe and Daniel Shumba of the United Democratic Alliance, announced that they were pulling out of the talks.

Manyika demanded a “neutral and credible convenor” for the dialogue and also pointed out that the absence of the country’s main opposition party — Chamisa’s MDC Alliance — in the negotiating table rendered the talks pointless.

Shumba also described the dialogue as a circus. He was not happy that Mnangagwa did not bother to attend last Friday’s meeting or to apologise for his absence.

The parties that remain committed to the dialogue do not have any significant representation in Parliament or local governance structures except for Zanu PF.

Any agreements that might be reached in these negotiations would not do anything to end the polarisation that has arrested Zimbabwe’s economic progress and deepened divisions among the people.

The invitation extended by Mnangagwa to the presidential candidates raised hopes among longsuffering Zimbabweans that politicians were finally prepared to put the country first.
However, the two meetings held so far have exposed the dialogue as an exercise in futility.

The need for genuine dialogue between the main protagonists in the political contest — Mnangagwa and Chamisa — can never be over-emphasised.

Zimbabwe cannot afford to be in a perpetual election mode like it was the case during Robert Mugabe’s reign, a situation that cost the economy dearly.

Mnangagwa, as the president, has a responsibility to show leadership and create an environment conducive for genuine dialogue.

The efforts the president is putting in place to attract investment and end Zimbabwe’s isolation from the international community will go to waste as long as citizens are pulling in different directions.

It will take leadership for Mnangagwa and Chamisa to realise that the dialogue is not about egos and point-scoring, but an inescapable route to pulling Zimbabwe from the abyss.