FIREBRAND opposition grandee, Job “Wiwa” Sikhala, has joined other MDC bigwigs in calling for dialogue with President Emmerson Mnangagwa and Zanu PF, to end the country’s myriad challenges.
Speaking to the Daily News in an exclusive interview yesterday, the larger-than-life Zengeza West legislator said this new position was not a climbdown from his hawkish previous stance towards Mnangagwa, the government and Zanu PF.
Instead, the MDC Alliance deputy national chairperson said, the continuing suffering of ordinary Zimbabweans demanded a change of tack, including a “necessary” holding of national talks with Mnangagwa to move Zimbabwe forward comes as Sikhala is facing trial for allegedly inciting public violence, following his participation in the foiled July 31 anti-government protests.
It also comes as Nelson Chamisa and the MDC Alliance have refused to join the Political Actors Dialogue — a platform where Mnangagwa regularly holds meetings with leaders of fringe opposition parties who contested him in the 2018 elections.
In his surprise but welcome call, Sikhala told the Daily News yesterday that it was becoming increasingly difficult to sustain a position of not engaging Mnangagwa, in light of the worsening economic pain of ordinary Zimbabweans.
“National consensus is critical at this juncture. The nation is bleeding. We all need to put our heads together and deal with the situation.
“Poverty knows no political colour. It consumes everyone no matter which political party you belong to. The urgency of our national challenges and crisis needs all of us to put our heads together as a people.
“You might be a hired goon to beat or kill people, but deep down in your heart you know that the time is up for a change of attitude,” Sikhala told the Daily News.
This is a major departure from the hawkish stance that Sikhala harboured a few months ago, when he played a part in mobilising for the thwarted July 31 protests against Mnangagwa and the government — over claims of rampant public sector corruption.
Then, Sikhala and Transform Zimbabwe leader Jacob Ngarivhume became the main faces of the foiled mass action.
The burly lawyer-cum-politician subsequently went into hiding as security agents hunted for him, before he was captured by police while allegedly hiding in a ceiling at a house in Harare’s Tynwald South suburb.
However, Sikhala dismissed the notion yesterday that he was making a dramatic Uturn on his combative previous stance.
“Conforming to the expectations of our people is not radicalism. It’s propelling their wish to the top. The people’s needs only come via united action, what is called citizen convergence,” he said.
Asked about the pre-dialogue conditions which have been set by both Zanu PF and the MDC Alliance, Sikhala retorted: “There are no conditions more important than the people’s freedom”.
This comes after Sikhala warned Chamisa in October this year not to think that his popularity would guarantee him becoming Zimbabwe’s next leader. Then, he also told Chamisa that history was replete with popular politicians who later failed to land the number one job in national politics — including the late and much-loved Morgan Tsvangirai, who died in February 2018 without having led Zimbabwe.
Addressing mourners at the funeral of MDC Alliance MP Anna Muyambo in Chitungwiza, Sikhala told Chamisa at the time that unpopular leaders often became State presidents because of their grit and decisiveness.
“We have lost several party stalwarts since we began this journey. We cannot all perish before we reach our destination … What I have noticed is that popularity alone is not the way to get State power.
“I remember Daniel arap Moi in Kenya when he took over after Jomo Kenyatta’s death and was supposed to be a transitional leader for just six months, but clung to power for 24 years,” Sikhala said amid clapping and ululation from the gathered crowd.
“I also remember that Patrice Lumumba was the most popular leader of the liberation struggle in Africa, but an unpopular Mobutu Sese Seko took charge of Zaire (now DRC) for over 30 years.
“The late (former president) Robert Mugabe was probably the most unpopular leader since the history of mankind and Morgan Tsvangirai was the most popular leader since the advent of politics, yet he died before he took State power,” Sikhala further told animated party supporters.
He also said despite Chamisa and the MDC Alliance commanding significant support in the country, State power remained a mirage for them.
“We have 2,6 million votes, meaning that our president and the party are the most popular brands in the politics of this country, but we are not in power.
“Mnangagwa cannot be voted for by a donkey, yet he is in charge. Khupe is hated by dogs and reptiles, yet she is in power.
“So, power is being controlled by the unpopular, while the popular ones are not in power. So, what is the formula, strategy and plan to translate our popularity into political power?
“If we are not going to find a strategy to unpack that equation, all the leaders — including president Chamisa and me — are also going to die popular, but without taking over power,” the combative politician also warned.
“Let us think hard on how we are going to solve that equation. The time has been too long … let us finish this off,” Sikhala added.
Both Mnangagwa and Chamisa have previously said they were committed to dialogue, although nothing concrete has happened — primarily because of differences over the form and platform on which the talks should take
On his part, Mnangagwa has been consistent that any talks with Chamisa should be held under Polad. But Chamisa has ruled out joining the platform — demanding, instead, direct dialogue with the president. This also comes as Chamisa has been involved in a hammer and tongs tussle with the interim leader of the MDC, Thokozani
Khupe, for control of the country’s largest opposition party.
The mindless bloodletting has since put paid to meaningful engagement with Mnangagwa and Zanu PF – with Khupe and her lieutenants recently saying they wanted to join hands with the 78-year-old Zimbabwean leader to form another government of national unity (GNU).
‘It’s time for talks with Mnangagwa’… Sikhala says, as he bids to end Zimbabwe’s myriad challenges
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