POLITICAL and civic society activists have called for a neutral mediator to lead interparty talks, which they say should be all inclusive and not led by President Emmerson Mnangagwa.
The remarks came as Chief Secretary to the President and Cabinet, Misheck Sibanda, sent invitations to all losing presidential candidates in the 2018 election to attend a meeting at State House yesterday.
The meeting, according to Sibanda, was to map out a framework for post-election dialogue.
Political parties and civic society organisations said if Mnangagwa was genuine, he should first order soldiers back to the barracks and release all political prisoners prior to the talks. Last month, Mnangagwa’s government deployed soldiers who violently quashed protests over the deepening economic crisis and they have been on the streets since.
Former Higher, Tertiary Education, Science and Technology minister Jonathan Moyo, who is in self-imposed exile, tweeted that Mnangagwa was not the right person to call for the talks as the environment was not yet conducive due to military abuses, including arbitrary arrests of opposition activists.
He also said that the AU & the international community won’t be fooled by an embattled captain of a sinking ship who, instead of sending an SOS, thinks he can avoid the inevitable by inviting his rival captain & some wannabes for tea to dialogue about his sinking ship.
The AU & the international community won't be fooled by an embattled captain of a sinking ship who, instead of sending an SOS, thinks he can avoid the inevitable by inviting his rival captain & some wannabes for tea to dialogue about his sinking ship.
It's dead in the water!
— Prof Jonathan Moyo (@ProfJNMoyo) February 6, 2019
South Africa-based political activist Fortune Mlalazi said though dialogue was necessary, Mnangagwa was not the right convener as he was an interested party.
“But the situation is very complex in that Mnangagwa himself cannot call for that dialogue because he is a culprit; he is from an offending party and is from a party that has brutalised citizens since we have seen human rights violations by the army and Zanu PF,” he said.
“Therefore, some of us are of the view that some neutral persons can lead the dialogue like what happened in 2008 where [former South African President] Thabo Mbeki led the [Government of National Unity] negotiations.”
Mlalazi said there were elders in southern Africa who could lead the talks such as former President of Botswana Festus Mogae, politician and humanitarian Graça Machel, including former South African President Jacob Zuma.
Mthwakazi Republic Party leader Mqondisi Moyo said any framework for dialogue, which comprised of losing presidential candidates and their parties, would have no bearing on the people.
“Party politics in this country is deliberately aligned to ethnic privilege, and of all the parties that contested the recent elections, none had any regard for the unique issues of Matabeleland. Any meaningful national dialogue will be devolved to the people on the ground,” Moyo said.
“The people have solutions to the problems affecting them. This is just another talkshow that is meant to sanitise the battered image of this military regime. After all the drama that has emerged soon after Mnangagwa’s fraudulent election, a transitional arrangement is needed to restore governance systems and to demilitarise the State.”
Habakkuk Trust director Dumisani Nkomo said the issue of dialogue was much bigger than politics.
“It is about the people, the economic conditions facing the people and a manifest critical governance crisis. Zimbabwe needs an inclusive national dialogue, not an elitist process which reduces citizens to passive spectators. We need a credible, inclusive process,” Nkomo said.
“The dialogue must begin at community to national level so that the aspirations of the people are harnessed. We do not have a shared national vision and values. This is what we need through an inclusive dialogue process.”
Rural Community Empowerment Trust co-ordinator for Lupane, Vumani Ndlovu, said Mnangagwa was under pressure from the international community, considering that the country was going through political and economic turmoil.
“As such, he wants to appear as all-encompassing to gain the support of the international community. Also considering the negative economic fundamentals bedeviling the country, he has no choice, but to engage other political parties with the hope that a solution could be proffered,” Ndlovu said.
But Kudzai Mutisi, a political commentator, said Mnangagwa should focus on reforms.
“Confused lot… President ED Mnangagwa should not waste his time. He should just focus on his reform agenda. Some folks are still waiting for the European Union and the United States embassy to give them permission to attend,” he tweeted.