THE ongoing military crackdown on civilians following recent anti-governments protests has been cited as a major threat to efforts to bring President Emmerson Mnangagwa and opposition MDC leader Nelson Chamisa to the negotiating table to resolve the current political and economic logjam.
Soldiers have been accused of unleashing a terror campaign on opposition activists and ordinary citizens countrywide, frustrating the National Peace and Reconciliation Commission (NPRC)’s efforts to initiate dialogue.
The NPRC last week said it was working on the framework for dialogue that would bring together Mnangagwa, Chamisa, civic society organisations and other stakeholders in a bid to arrest the deteriorating situation in the country since last year’s controversial elections.
In a statement last week, the NPRC said it had conducted bilateral consultations with the goal of building consensus on the need for national dialogue and advised that it would soon invite sectoral representatives to jointly formulate the framework to guide the national dialogue process.
But the MDC yesterday said continued reports of harassment of civilians by the military could stifle the proposed talks.
MDC secretary-general Douglas Mwonzora said while his party was ready for talks, the failure by Mnangagwa to order the soldiers back to the barracks was a cause for concern.
“The gross human rights violations, targeting and decimating MDC is not conducive for dialogue,” Mwonzora said.
“So, clearly the government was not ready for dialogue. They are not genuine, but the MDC is ready, predicated of course upon a set of defined issues which benefit the people of Zimbabwe.”
But Zanu PF yesterday refused to comment on the demands by “other stakeholders”, advising the MDC to direct their concerns to organisers of the national dialogue.
“I don’t understand what they are talking about. The organisers are the ones who are inviting the people and the MDC people must speak to the organisers,” Zanu PF spokesperson Simon Khaya Moyo, said.
Thulani Mswelanto, Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition director, described the military as the major power broker in Zimbabwean politics, adding it had vested interests.
“After mapping the power matrix in Zimbabwe, it is clear that the army is a major power broker that plunged the country into chaos by creating an illegitimate political order in 2017,” Mswelanto told NewsDay.
“The army is now seized with protecting and sustaining that order using coercion and violence. Dialogue will dislodge the army of its role in our politics because that dialogue must focus on timelines for key reforms that include security sector reforms, electoral reforms and creating a clear economic agenda that prioritises social protection.”
Human Rights Watch’s Southern Africa director Dewa Mavhinga said the military factor must be addressed because the army plays a key role in the country’s national politics.
Zimbabwe Council of Churches (ZCC) said they were together working with the NPRC to ensure that the proposed national dialogue was a success.
“If there is a crisis, it then makes the whole process even urgent. No one among the stakeholders will be seen pressured to do anything if things are static, but right now, the crisis makes it urgent,” ZCC general-secretary Reverend Kenneth Mtata said.
“We have successes of dialogue that were recorded in the past. We have had successful dialogue during the Gukurahundi era and we had the Unity Accord in 1987. In 2008, we had another crisis and because of dialogue, we had the Government of National Unity in 2009 and the national Constitution in 2013 as well. We have a record of successes, where we engage each other and that must encourage us.
“The conditions were worse in 1987. Currently, we are not in a position that prohibits us from talking. In 2008, the conditions were even worse.”