HARARE – The much-talked about talks between President Emmerson Mnangagwa and opposition leader Nelson Chamisa are being frustrated by hardliners within both the ruling Zanu PF and the MDC, the Daily News can reveal today.
This comes after both Mnangagwa and Chamisa separately said this week that they were willing to engage in dialogue that could extricate the country from the country’s worsening economic rot — which analysts say has driven Zimbabwe to the brink of the horrific 2008 meltdown.
The encouraging statements by the two arch rivals went a long way towards raising hope in the country, following their hardline positions of last year when Mnangagwa declared that he would never form a government of national unity with Chamisa — while the latter insisted on talks which would end with him being installed as Zimbabwe’s “legitimate” president.
Speaking through his aides this week, Mnangagwa repeated a call that he first made to Chamisa last year after the hotly-disputed July 30 elections when he told the MDC leader that “my door is open and my arms are outstretched”.
And writing on social media on Wednesday, Chamisa also reiterated his desire for dialogue with Mnangagwa — whom he referred to as his “brother”, in a welcome move which signalled his abandonment of his once militant approach to talks.
“I have met with many on our worsening situation and unbearable suffering. The back-to-school burden, high prices, non-performing economy, joblessness and worthless salaries bring sorrow.
“On this, I call upon my bro(ther) ED to urgent dialogue to solve our politics and economics or it gets worse,” he said on Twitter.
But insiders in both parties told the Daily News yesterday that hardliners on both sides were opposed to any dialogue as this threatened their political and economic interests.
“It’s going to take massive effort from both ED and Chamisa to overcome hardliners in the two respective parties (Zanu PF and MDC) who are fearful of the dialogue as this threatens their interests,” a Zanu PF source said.
This view was bolstered by political analysts who also said hardliners within both parties were “rabidly against talks for self-preservation reasons”.
Respected University of Zimbabwe political science lecturer, Eldred Masunungure, said there was “no doubt” that the stumbling block to the mooted dialogue between Mnangagwa and Chamisa were hawks within Zanu PF and the MDC.
“There are hardliners and soft-liners in the two parties. It dates back to the declaration by former president Robert Mugabe that he was supporting Chamisa on the eve of the (July 30) elections.
“Before that, Zanu PF was interested in engaging Chamisa and the opposition, but that declaration hardened the view of hardliners in Zanu PF, particularly the military,” he said.
“The hardliners in Zanu PF view Chamisa as someone who cannot be trusted. The MDC Alliance has also taken a hardline stance by rejecting the win by Mnangagwa, and as long as that view that Mnangagwa is illegitimate holds, there will not be dialogue.
“These hardline positions are unrealistic and I don’t see the two parties engaging unless if all these issue are resolved … but that is what happens in a patronage system … people will protect their turf.
“If you bring the MDC to government, some in Zanu PF could lose their positions, and so they undermine efforts between the MDC and Zanu PF to engage,” Masunungure added.
Namibia-based political analyst, Admire Mare, said both Zanu PF and the MDC were to blame for stalling the eagerly-awaited talks.
“I think its hardliners within both camps not wanting to portray themselves as desperate for outside help who are behind this. It is also fear of being displaced from certain strategic positions that come with elite pacts.
“Chamisa and the MDC Alliance’s refusal to accept Mnangagwa as the legitimate leader is also a big sticking issue in the way of dialogue,” Mare said.
Meanwhile, Zanu PF spokesperson Simon Khaya Moyo has challenged Chamisa to go and see Mnangagwa if he was “serious” about talks.
“He knows who to see. Why doesn’t he go and meet the president? He should go and say what he thinks and I think the president will hear him,” Khaya Moyo said.
However, Chamisa claimed on Wednesday that he had previously written letters to Mnangagwa, seeking to have dialogue over the current political and economic crises, but to no avail.
“Working flat out to have dialogue in order to save lives rather than lose lives to have dialogue and a solution. I have written letters without a reply before and after elections.
“I have met with potential mediators in the church. I have engaged leaders in Sadc and AU (African Union) … I made a public statement of invitation,” he said while responding to a question on Twitter.
But senior Zanu PF politburo member, and the party’s secretary for administration, Obert Mpofu, appeared to pour cold water on the proposed talks.
“They have not approached us … the question is on what basis are they willing to engage us? I have not heard anything about engagement, but the president is very clear, he has said that he will listen to all Zimbabweans on issues to do with Zimbabwe and so with Chamisa it all depends on what he has to say, starting with legitimacy.
“We have a president who has been recognised by the people and you cannot obliterate what people say … why then raise the issue of legitimacy? Those are issues of political grandstanding,” Mpofu told the Daily News yesterday.
Chamisa 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).
The youthful opposition leader even went to the extent of accusing 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.
In the meantime, Mnangagwa and his government are battling to turn around the country’s sickly economy.
As a result, Zimbabwe is now in the throes of a mega economic crisis which has resulted in much suffering and anger among citizens who accuse the government of introducing a raft of measures which have further burdened them instead of alleviating their pain.