A FRESH political crisis may be brewing in the country after opposition leader Nelson Chamisa snubbed President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s talks-about-talks gathering at State House yesterday, as authorities begin to show more urgency about ending Zimbabwe’s decades-long political and economic mess.
Chamisa said he had rebuffed Mnangagwa’s meeting because he preferred the much-talked about national dialogue to be held under the guidance of an impartial convener.
The dramatic development came after Mnangagwa had invited many of the country’s well-known opposition figures, including those who contested him in last year’s hotly-disputed presidential election.
Among the notable opposition politicians who attended yesterday’s indaba were Thokozani Khupe, Nkosana Moyo, Lovemore Madhuku, Elton Mangoma, Ambrose Mutinhiri and Bryn Mteki.
But in a letter to the chief secretary to the President and Cabinet, Misheck Sibanda, Chamisa’s chief of staff — Sesel Zvidzai — politely declined Mnangagwa’s invitation.
He also spelt out six issues that Mnangagwa needed to meet before any meaningful dialogue could take place — including a requirement that all “prisoners of conscience” be freed, and that there be an immediate return to the barracks by the military.
“We acknowledge receipt of a letter inviting the MDC to participate in a meeting set to discuss the ‘post-election dialogue’ framework.
“The party notes that Mr Mnangagwa has finally acceded to the call by president advocate Nelson Chamisa of the need for dialogue as a way of resolving the national crisis.
“The MDC believes in genuine and sincere dialogue that ultimately must benefit the people of Zimbabwe. We also believe that national dialogue is part of the unfinished liberation struggle agenda,” the MDC letter said.
“It is our considered view that at the core of the crisis in Zimbabwe is the disputed presidential election result and the associated governance issues. In view of this, the MDC’s position is that the dialogue process must be convened by an independent mediator and not one of the disputants. In this respect, the MDC believes that genuine dialogue can only take place if regionally facilitated and mediated by Sadc and guaranteed by the AU and the UN,” the MDC added.
Chamisa also said that for genuine dialogue to start, the State must, with immediate effect, stop all forms of violence against the people — including all killings, rape, shootings, torture, abductions and arrests, as well as a genuine and transparent process to bring to book all those responsible for these atrocities.
Among a litany of other conditions that he set was a demand for guarantees about the independence of the judiciary, as well as “restoration of the rule of law and an end to malicious prosecutions and the miscarriage of justice being witnessed at Rotten Row Magistrates’ Courts”.
“Cognisant of the need to balance the fears, interests and aspirations of all the potential stakeholders in the dialogue, the MDC is amenable to sincere discussions around the issues we raise and how best we can create a conducive environment for dialogue,” Chamisa’s letter concluded.
Writing earlier on Twitter, he described Mnangagwa’s invitation for yesterday’s dialogue as nothing but a “game”.
“We’ve a political crisis arising out of a disputed and rigged presidential election result in Zimbabwe. The Presidency is disputed. We need genuine dialogue under a credible convener and mediator to solve this crisis. Stop citizens’ abuses, beatings and arrests,” Chamisa wrote.
Speaking at the indaba yesterday, Mnangagwa said: “In view of the July 30 results and the subsequent Constitutional Court pronouncement, I suggest that we all accept the results of our harmonised elections as an expression of the will of the Zimbabwean people in order for us to focus on the next elections which are due in 2023”.
“Before then, it means all of us in our different capacities must accept the challenges which we face as a sovereign nation with a view to making positive contributions,” he added.
Among the parties which joined the country’s main opposition in snubbing yesterday’s meeting were the National Patriotic Front (NPF), which said it was “inconceivable’ that it would attend the gathering when many of its members were languishing in prison.
“As a party, our deputy national commissar Jim Kunaka and our Mashonaland Central chairperson, Dickson Mafios, are languishing in prison as political prisoners. Several other high-ranking officials have skipped the country’s borders, running away from alleged State security agents hunting them as if they are common criminals.
“In light of current circumstances, we believe, as a party, that dialogue aimed at extricating our country from the current mess should be convened, facilitated and guaranteed by an international body given powers to superintend over the implementation of any agreement that should come therein,” NPF spokesperson Jealousy Mawarire said.
Another 2018 presidential candidate, Daniel Shumba, who leads the United Democratic Alliance (UDA), said he would pull out of the talks if they did not address “real issues” affecting Zimbabweans.
“Setting up of the framework for national dialogue shouldn’t be snubbed. The UDA is set to ensure that the agenda is representative of the people’s desires, stops the madness, restores Zimbabwe to constitutionalism and the rule of law, demilitarisation of the nation State.
“Rape, murder, imprisonment, beatings, and other human rights violations by the State must receive the befitting recourse. To be able to prescribe and fight for the people, we have resolved to be at the table. Even wars end at the negotiating table,” Shumba said.
All this comes as civil society organisations (CSOs) have said the country’s mooted national dialogue should be inclusive and not just involve political parties.
In the meantime, Mnangagwa has also already tasked the National Peace and Reconciliation Commission (NPRC) with spearheading the planned talks which are seen as the only solution to mitigating Zimbabwe’s worsening myriad crises.
Last month, police and soldiers were engaged in running battles with protesters who flooded the streets of Harare, Bulawayo and other towns — to demonstrate against the steep fuel price hikes which were announced by the president ahead of his tour of Eastern Europe.
Property worth millions of dollars was also destroyed and looted in the mayhem which ensued, after thousands of workers heeded the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) three-day strike call.
At the same time, security forces unleashed a brutal crackdown against the protesters, the opposition and civil society leaders — in a move which received wide condemnation in the country and around the world. At least 12 people died, while 78 others were treated for serious gunshot wounds, according to rights groups and medical doctors.
Rights groups also continue to report human rights abuses by security forces — including galling allegations that soldiers had raped women and girls during their much-condemned crackdown against innocent civilians. This prompted Mnangagwa to announce that he would probe the accusations, vowing that heads would roll if his government established that the abuses had indeed taken place.
While welcoming the calls for dialogue, Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition (CiZC) has warned that this should not involve political parties only.
“It is CiZC’s long held view that following the disputed July 30, 2018 elections, a national dialogue is critical in resolving the Zimbabwean crisis. It is our conviction that the national dialogue process must involve all stakeholders and a national visioning process that has civil society, government, political parties, business, religious groups and labour unions among other critical stakeholders.
“The dialogue process should produce a clearly timed roadmap to the demilitarisation of civilian political processes and the restoration of normalcy in the country by focusing on key political, economic and social reforms,” CiZC said.
“It is imperative to arrest the economic downturn in Zimbabwe based on a clear reform roadmap and implementation of pro-poor and inclusive economic policies. Efforts at economic transformation, stabilisation and growth should be aimed at achieving inclusive sustainable economic growth and development.
“The army must desist from partisan politics and confine themselves to the barracks. There is an imperative need to de-militarise the Zimbabwean State,” CiZC said further.