FORMER colonial master Britain is actively pushing for opposition MDC Alliance leader Nelson Chamisa to recognise President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s legitimacy and for the Zanu PF leader to reach out to his adversary.
However, although reports showed the European Union (EU) was also involved, the bloc rejected the claims, while the British embassy in Harare was cryptic when reached for comment.
EU’s immediate past envoy to Zimbabwe, Philippe van Damme, would not comment, saying he had completed his tour of duty and was already in his home country, Belgium.
An official at the embassy, Thomas van Handel, also said the EU was not involved.
“As EU delegation, we are not involved in such negotiations, if there are any. Nevertheless, we encourage inclusive dialogue,” Van Handel said.
A British embassy spokesperson, in an emailed response, seemed to confirm a push to bring warring Mnangagwa and Chamisa camps closer.
“We can confirm that British ambassador Catriona Laing had a useful meeting with Nelson Chamisa this week. At that meeting, Mr Chamisa gave his own assessment of the current situation in Zimbabwe following the elections,” the embassy said in response.
It added that its government was goading Mnangagwa to recognise Chamisa as well.
“As our minister for Africa, Harriett Baldwin indicated at the weekend, (that) the UK [United Kingdom] has called on President Mnangagwa to reach out to those who did not support him or his party and to work to build their confidence and trust. We have also called on the opposition to play their part in healing processes,” the spokesperson said.
The response from the British seemed to dovetail into the MDC-T led by Chamisa’s resolution at their national council meeting this week, giving the 40-year-old presidential election losing candidate carte-blanche to “talk”.
“The president (Chamisa) is authorised to engage all stakeholders in dialogue, with the scope of dealing with the current impasse arising from a stolen election and to resolve related governance issues,” the party said.
Earlier this week, Chamisa in an interview with South African broadcaster SABC, said his supporters had warned him against going into “bed” with Mnangagwa.
“Our people have said: ‘Mr Chamisa, don’t work with these people’. They are saying don’t join hands with the crocodile (Mnangagwa’s nickname). You will be drowned like what happened to president (Morgan) Tsvangirai when he worked with Robert Mugabe. He was diluted, we were diluted, we ended up losing focus and manipulated out of power,” Chamisa said.
But the national council resolved that Chamisa and his leadership must begin a process of consulting the party membership on “the way forward after the stolen election”.
Chamisa’s spokesperson Nkululeko Sibanda confirmed that his principal was given the greenlight to pursue dialogue.
“The president was given a mandate to engage in dialogue. The resolution was that whatever dialogue, (it) should be aimed at resolving the crisis and restoring legitimacy. It should also be aimed at giving our country and the people a chance at restoring economic opportunities,” Sibanda said. “These remain the guiding principles.”
Officials close to the developments, however, claimed Chamisa had already sent emissaries to Mnangagwa, while reports last week said the opposition leader’s chief of staff, Sessel Zvidzai, had spent a day at Vice-President Constantino Chiwenga’s farm.
Part of the discussions, the sources said, was meant to get Mnangagwa to adopt a British style arrangement in which he would recognise Chamisa as “official leader of the opposition”.
“Mnangagwa, in turn, has demanded that Chamisa first recognises him as legitimately-elected President of Zimbabwe. It’s the current sticking point,” NewsDay Weekender heard.
Asked if Chamisa had received emissaries from Mnangagwa or if any envoys had been dispatched the other way round, Sibanda was skittish: “We don’t know who they are talking to, but I— can’t comment on that. I will confirm with the chief of staff (Zvidzai).”
Zvidzai was not available for comment yesterday.
Zanu PF secretary for legal affairs Munyaradzi Paul Mangwana, while denying the talks early this week, did not rule out the possibility of such discussions.
“We are elder brothers. If they (MDC Alliance) want to talk and have an issue they want to place on the agenda, they are free. President Mnangagwa is the father of the nation and he will not shut anyone out. We will not make any declarations that we will not talk to anyone,” Mangwana said.