Opposition leader Nelson Chamisa is ratcheting up the pressure on President Emmerson Mnangagwa in a bid to energise the frustratingly slow tempo of the much-talked about national dialogue meant to end the country’s deepening economic crisis.
This comes as long-suffering citizens are enduring one of the worst festive seasons in the history of post-independent Zimbabwe — marked by debilitating shortages of fuel and basic goods such as cooking oil and soft drinks, among a myriad other challenges.
It also comes as Chamisa has recently held surprise talks with South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, who political analysts say is “potentially very influential” in brokering tangible talks between the MDC leader and Mnangagwa.
Chamisa told the media this week that he remained keen to engage Mnangagwa, as this was the “only way” to stem the country’s worsening economic rot.
“Zimbabweans are suffering … we can’t afford to go on like this. There is need for leadership … unfortunately Mnangagwa is not willing to provide the kind of leadership that is required.
“We must not think about our parties or about power … let’s think about Zimbabweans. Let’s think about the people whom we are supposed to be leading so that we come together,” he said during a surprise tour of Mbare Musika bus terminus in Harare on Christmas eve.
“We have answers but we can’t provide those answers because there is no platform to provide those answers. Our objective is not to form a government of national unity.
“Our objective is to talk about what the problem is. There was a contestation of the election results … there is no confidence. So, we have to resolve confidence issues.
“The challenges we have in the economy are because the politics is stinking … we must have political dialogue,” Chamisa added.
Efforts by the Daily News yesterday to solicit a response from the government drew a blank.
But Chamisa’s comments this week came as he has been brawling with Mnangagwa ever since he narrowly lost the hotly-disputed July 30 presidential election — whose result he vigorously challenged at the Constitutional Court (Con-Court).
The youthful opposition leader even went to the extent of accusing the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) of manipulating the poll results in favour of the Zanu PF leader.
But Mnangagwa’s victory was upheld by the Con-Court, which ruled that Chamisa had failed to provide evidence that he had won the election.
Last month, he held a massive demonstration in Harare — where he lashed Mnangagwa, exhorting the president to act on the deteriorating political and economic situation in the country.
In the meantime, Mnangagwa has ruled out forming a GNU with Chamisa and the MDC — while also remaining coy on the much-talked about national dialogue.
Chamisa has said that his recent meeting with Ramaphosa was part of his efforts to try and resolve the current political and economic crises in the country.
“The main objective was to sensitise him of our situation, give him our side of the story in terms of the way forward.
“I told him that there is no confidence because there is no political stability … the elections were rigged.
“The elections were rigged because the result of what the people voted for was not the one that was announced. So, there is need to go back to what the source of the problem is,” Chamisa said.
South Africa, which is Zimbabwe’s biggest trading partner, is seen as having the greatest potential influence on local national politics, including the mooted dialogue between Chamisa and Mnangagwa.
In 2008, the neighbouring country’s former president, Thabo Mbeki, was instrumental in brokering talks which led to the formation of a GNU between ousted former president Robert Mugabe and the late MDC founding leader Morgan Tsvangirai — following that year’s hotly-disputed elections.
Mbeki’s mediation culminated in the signing of the global political agreement (GPA), which paved the way for the formation of the unity government in February 2009.
The popular Tsvangirai had trounced Mugabe hands down in the disputed 2008 presidential election.
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 confirmed 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.
Zimbabwe is currently in the throes of a mega economic crisis which has resulted in shortages of basic consumer goods and medicines.
Apart from shortages of drugs and basic goods, the government is also battling acute shortages of foreign currency which have seen the re-emergence of long fuel queues.
The government is also struggling to end the doctors’ strike which has crippled services within the country’s failing public health sector.
The State’s recent ill-advised decision to fire 500 striking doctors — on the back of a court ruling which deemed their industrial action illegal — has seen provincial medical officers (PMOs) joining their colleagues in solidarity, leaving hospitals in the lurch.
Mnangagwa, who had worked hard to break from Mugabe’s discredited history, suffered a huge setback when deadly violence broke out in Harare on August 1 — leading to the deaths of at least six innocent people when the military joined the police in quelling post-election disturbances which had broken out.
The shootings occurred after millions of Zimbabweans had cast their votes in the polls to choose both a new Parliament and president, following the dramatic fall from power of Mugabe last November.
The elections were the first since 1980 to be held in the country without Mugabe’s participation, whose 37-year, iron-fisted rule was stunningly ended by a military intervention which triggered events that ended with his resignation.
The elections also marked the first time that the main opposition MDC was not represented by Tsvangirai, who lost his brave battle against colon cancer on Valentine’s Day this year.