Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) vice president Welshman Ncube compared talks initiated by President Emmerson Mnangagwa to resolve Zimbabwe’s political and economic crisis, snubbed by his party on Wednesday, to the Internal Settlement.
MDC leaders took turns to denounce the process on social media, and in a statement the party said it would only take part in the dialogue if it is brokered by an independent outside mediator endorsed by SADC, the African Union and the United Nations.
“Why do humans have great difficulty in embracing the lessons of history? Did the Smith/Muzorewa dialogue resolve the Rhodesian question?,” Ncube said on Twitter, referring to a 1978 pact between the embattled Rhodesian Prime Minister Ian Smith and United African National Council leader Abel Muzorewa which they hoped would end the bush war for independence.
The Internal Settlement collapsed after ZANU and ZAPU continued waging war, and the United Nations Security Council declared any settlement drafted under the “illegal racist minority regime” to be “illegal and unacceptable.”
Mnangagwa, who is under pressure over the deteriorating economy and a crackdown on anti-government protests last month, invited 23 opposition leaders to a meeting to draw up terms for national dialogue. But the MDC, the biggest party outside Mnangagwa’s Zanu PF, stayed away.
“The MDC’s position is that the dialogue process must be convened by an independent mediator and not one of the disputants,” the MDC said in a letter responding to Mnangagwa’s invitation to the talks.
The MDC maintains that Zimbabwe’s problems stemmed from last year’s presidential vote. Mnangagwa won but MDC accused him of rigging the results, which he denies.
“No genuine dialogue can ever take place in a warzone where the convener is illegitimate and also an actor,” MDC MP and the party’s deputy national chairman Tendai Biti tweeted. “Our people are being raped, incarcerated or going thorough fake trials; others are in hospital brutalised by the regime. Dialogue requires bona fides, goodwill and guarantees.”
Joice Mujuru, the National People’s Party leader, did not attend the meeting also boycotted by the National Patriotic Front, which won a parliamentary seat in Kwekwe. Other smaller parties, however, met Mnangagwa at State House in Harare.
In a speech before the talks, Mnangagwa said his opponents should accept his election win, and he urged them to call for the removal of U.S. sanctions on ruling party and government officials.
“Peace can never be imposed from outside but must issue from within our own society,” Mnangagwa said, in an apparent reference to the MDC demand for an outside mediator.
Zimbabwe has held disputed elections since 2000, which coincided with an economic recession, but in 2009 the ruling Zanu PF party and the MDC formed a unity government, which ushered economic and political stability.
Last July’s vote, the first since former President Robert Mugabe was forced to resign after a coup in 2017, was seen as an opportunity to pull Zimbabwe out of its diplomatic isolation and prompting an economic recovery. Instead, the vote left the nation polarised.
Rights groups and witnesses say armed men in police and army uniform have continued to make night raids at homes of opposition activists where they beat up occupants, a charge denied by security forces.
A video surfaced this week of a soldier beating women at a house in a Harare township while another man held a pistol and frogmarched three young men.
Major General Nyikayaramba told reporters that the army used proportionate force against protesters and that no-one had reported rights abuses against the military.
The Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum said on Wednesday that 17 people had died since the mid-January protests.
A strike for better pay by teachers entered its second day as some stayed at home while others attended school but did not teach, with unions accusing security agents of intimidation.