BY BLESSED MHLANGA/XOLISANI NCUBE
OPPOSITION MDC leader Nelson Chamisa yesterday said he would not be bulldozed into “a meaningless dialogue” with President Emmerson Mnangagwa, vowing that any talks with the Zanu PF leader to resolve the current political stand-off would only start after government has stopped the arbitrary arrests and persecution of his party members.
But Mnangagwa, addressing foreign diplomats accredited to Zimbabwe at State House yesterday, took a dig at the youthful opposition leader, accusing him of being “immature” and playing to the gallery by spurning his recent offer to kick-start the negotiations.
Speaking during a public lecture in Harare to celebrate the life of the late MDC founding leader Morgan Tsvangirai, Chamisa said he would also only agree to dialogue with Mnangagwa after identification of a neutral arbiter and venue.
Chamisa told the public lecture that his party was prepared to use its political muscle through demonstrations, where all its supporters countrywide would descend on Harare and demand dialogue to discuss Mnangagwa’s legitimacy and genuine electoral and political reforms.
“The dates of the demonstration will come, but we want this country to be peaceful and prosperous. But that has to be done on account of dialogue and we have said we need dialogue on these issues,” he said.
“If Mnangagwa is not willing to dialogue, we will have to invite him to dialogue through political pressure. In terms of the Constitution, we have a democratic right to demonstrate. We will have to bring everyone to Harare and this is the mother of all demonstrations. This country must be liberated.
“We continue on the same path led by Tsvangirai. I have refused to have my victory stolen by Mnangagwa. We are not going to stop, we are going after him until he lets go of what he stole. He has to return what is ours.”
But Mnangagwa, who last week held an indaba with a majority of last year’s presidential aspirants minus Chamisa, reiterated his call for dialogue among political players, adding that those refusing to co-operate were “playing with the people’s lives”.
“All the presidential candidates, who have the maturity and sense of leadership joined us. I call on those who refuse to take part in the national dialogue to stop grandstanding and playing games with the lives of the people of Zimbabwe,” Mnangagwa said.
“I will remain a listening President. My arms are outstretched and my door is open. We hear your criticism, and when it is fair, the insights are noted or implemented.”
Mnangagwa accused a hidden “foreign hand” of sponsoring last month’s violent protests, which broke out after he announced a 150% fuel price hike.
To quell the protests, which had turned into an orgy of arson and looting, government unleashed the military and police, who allegedly fatally shot at the protesters and left 17 people dead and dozens others injured.
Yesterday, Mnangagwa said he was still probing allegations that the military abused civilians.
“Any evidence of rogue police officers or soldiers taking the law into their own hands will be dealt with and they will face the full force of the law,” Mnangagwa said.
“The demonstrations were, therefore, neither civil nor peaceful and were bent on effecting a regime change. I urge you to give the new Zimbabwe a chance. Stand with us. Stand with us as we toil to chart a new course for our nation, for the people of Zimbabwe.”
This came as Chamisa threatened to unleash a humongous demonstration against the Zanu PF government, despite threats of another military crackdown.
“The ZCTU [Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions] is our mother. They called for a peaceful stayaway and when it was very successful, they blamed the sins of the mother on the child. You will see us when we call our own. Very soon, we are calling for one, we are going there,” he said.
Chamisa, who has refused to recognise Mnangagwa’s victory in last year’s presidential poll, said he would mobilise his supporters to march against gun-toting security forces.
“Are we afraid to die? We are not. We are already dead. Do we fear getting injured? We are already hurt. Are you afraid that these people will finish you? They can’t finish us, we are many. It’s us who will finish them,” he said.
Chamisa reaffirmed his desire to retain his post at the MDC elective congress slated for October.