Analysts say while there is an urgent need for President Emmerson Mnangagwa and opposition leader Nelson Chamisa to “find each other”, crises-weary Zimbabweans should not raise their expectations that the two political rivals will work together anytime soon.
Speaking in interviews with the Daily News on Sunday yesterday — in the wake of recent suggestions from Zanu PF and the MDC, that Zimbabwe’s two main political parties could be ready to engage each other in the interest of the country and its long-suffering citizens — the analysts also warned that the chances of a second government of national unity (GNU) were slim.
This comes as Zimbabwe remains in the vice grip of a growing economic crisis which has seen the devastating re-emergence of long fuel queues, worsening foreign currency shortages and shocking increases in the prices of basic goods.
As a measure of scale of the crisis facing the country, which has heightened calls for political dialogue between Mnangagwa and Chamisa, Zimbabwe’s official inflation hit nearly 26 percent in October — the highest recorded in the southern African nation since it adopted the multiple currency system in 2009.
As bad as this official figure appears, particularly given that this is captured in US dollar terms, many independent economists say the country’s “real” inflation is in fact way higher — with some experts putting it close to a staggering 200 percent.
Burning from the resultant economic heat, many Zimbabweans have received the recent news of possible talks between Mnangagwa and Chamisa enthusiastically, seeing this as the best route to save the country from plummeting further to the disastrous economic levels of 2008.
But the analysts who spoke to the Daily News on Sunday yesterday said these hopes were “over-optimistic”, while talk of a second GNU were “way premature”.
“It remains unclear whether both sides are actually talking about the same thing and whether that would lead to a meeting of minds regarding some kind of power-sharing agreement.
“The MDC is now calling for a national dialogue with key stakeholders, as well as a transitional authority at the same time, to oversee the implementation of both needed political and economic reforms.
“Although, the ruling Zanu PF may have some overlapping interests in terms of some reforms, it seems highly unlikely their government will have any interest in seeking a power-sharing arrangement,” Piers Pigou, a senior consultant at the International Crisis Group, said.
“They will not want to give any succour to the MDC’s mantra that Mnangagwa lacks legitimacy. And as far as I can see, they also don't believe either process will or can help them.
“Having said that, they may well engage at some level. But I don’t see any prospects for a genuine commitment to diluting their control through power sharing or dialogue processes,” Pigou added.
Another political analyst, Dewa Mavhinga, also said while it was encouraging that the country’s two political heavyweights were considering dialogue, the process was likely to be complicated.
“First, there has to be a sound legal and constitutional basis for such talks. But presently, it does not appear as if there is one.
“Second, both parties must be willing to have the dialogue, but it also appears as if there are certain pre-conditions that could make the dialogue impossible,” he said.
“For instance, if Mnangagwa insists that he be recognised as a legitimate leader first before any talks, is Chamisa willing and ready to do that?
“My sense is that politically, economically and socially, conditions may need to decline drastically first to raise enough pressure to bring the polarised leaders to the negotiating table. So far the chances of a GNU are not that high,” Mavhinga added.
Another political analyst, Rashweat Mukundu, also said Mnangagwa and Chamisa needed to “find each other first” before they could tackle any thorny issues in their talks.
“If the two leaders focus on what brings them together rather than what divides them, then it is possible to have fruitful talks.
“The commonality between the two is to rescue Zimbabwe from this economic crisis and agree on broad-based political reforms in preparation for 2023.
“This can be the key agenda for the talks and if they agree to work together beyond these issues then the better for Zimbabwe. We all know that the GNU period was far better for the country than the period before and after it,” Mukundu said.
Zimbabwe was forced into a GNU a decade ago, following the hotly-disputed 2008 presidential election in which the late MDC founding leader Morgan Tsvangirai trounced former president Robert Mugabe hands down.
The results of those elections were withheld for six long weeks by stunned authorities — amid widespread allegations of ballot tampering and fraud, which were later revealed by former bigwigs of the ruling party.
In the ensuing sham presidential run-off, which authorities claimed was needed to determine the winner, Zanu PF apparatchiks engaged in an orgy of violence in which hundreds of Tsvangirai’s supporters were killed — forcing the former prime minister in the inclusive government to withdraw from the discredited race altogether.
Mugabe went on to stand in a widely-condemned one-man race in which he shamelessly declared himself the winner.
However, Sadc and the rest of the international community would have none of it, forcing the nonagenarian to share power with Tsvangirai for five years, to prevent the country from imploding completely.
Mnangagwa — speaking through his spokesperson George Charamba in an exclusive interview with the Daily News on Sunday’s sister paper, the Daily News, on Wednesday, said he was open to talks with Chamisa — on the strict understanding that the MDC leader recognised the president as the legitimate winner of the country’s hotly-disputed July 30 election.
This, in turn, came after Chamisa and his key lieutenant Tendai Biti had earlier on Monday told the Commission of Inquiry probing the August 1 shootings in Harare — which left at least six civilians dead — that political dialogue was the only solution to ending the country’s political and economic problems.
Chamisa narrowly lost to Mnangagwa in the July 30 presidential election, before he went on to accuse the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) of manipulating the results in favour of the Zanu PF leader.
But Mnangagwa’s victory was later upheld by the Constitutional Court, which ruled that Chamisa had failed to provide evidence that he had won the election.